Opinion column with Blaise Tapp
You would be hard pressed to find a regular teenager who hasn't routinely flouted the licensing laws during their short lives nor would you expect to meet an Audi driver who doesn't break the speed limit every time they hit the open road.
These are among the regulations that most of us, at some point, disregard with the decisiveness of a Brexit-defying High Court judge. One of the laws of the land that large numbers flout on a regular basis is the one which relates to using a mobile phone behind the wheel of a car.
We all know that we are not supposed to do it, yet wherever you look on the roads there are motorists openly defying a law which has been in place for 13 years. This law breaking takes many forms: the blatant holding of the phone to the ear while using the other hand to steer or get hold of a selection of savoury snacks; the driving with the phone held at least a foot from one’s mouth or the perching the phone on the knee, hoping nobody will be any the wiser.
The levels of this disregard for others knows no bounds with drivers also texting, tweeting or updating their status while in charge of a four wheeled killing machine.
Although the law is clear that being caught phoning your other half to put tea on while either driving or in stationary traffic is currently punishable by a £100 fine or three points on your licence offenders know it is highly unlikely they get caught. This defiance is down to successive governments reducing the numbers of traffic police both in favour of lucrative speed cameras and part of a sustained austerity drive.
But motorists need to look beyond whether or not they can get away with it, they need to examine the potential consequences. Did the lorry driver who crashed his vehicle into a car, killing a mum and three children, really think the act of selecting music on his phone would result in such tragic consequences? Of course he didn’t. If that devastating accident hasn’t made motorists change their mind about using the phone on the road then nothing will.
But very few motorists actually switch their phone off before they set off on any journey and those that do are usually dismissed as being over cautious or being a member of the awkward squad.
I am not alone but how do we prevent further deaths?
Should offenders be forced to meet with those whose lives have been destroyed by selfish motorists like them or should the authorities spend their marketing budgets on a hard hitting campaign designed to change attitudes forever?
Some argue that the penalties, which are due to double next year, should be increased further to include jail sentences for persistent offenders. The easiest thing would be for motorists everywhere to realise that breaking this particular law really isn’t that clever.