The South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership is again warning motorists of the dangers of using their mobile phones whilst driving, as the penalties for doing so are set to double.

From 1 March 2017, drivers caught using a hand held mobile phone while driving will see the penalty increased from three points and a £100 fine to six points and a £200 fine. The changes mean that newly qualified drivers – who can only gain six points before being banned – risk losing their licences if caught using their phone.

Studies show that drivers using a hands-free or handheld mobile phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash.

A government consultation in 2016 found overwhelming support for increasing the fines and penalty points for drivers using hand-held mobile phones. In addition, the findings of an RAC report on motoring suggest a significant worsening in both attitude and behaviour among drivers to using a mobile for making calls and checking social media.

Joanne Wehrle, Safer Roads Education Manager said, “Using a mobile phone, sat nav or any similar device whilst driving means that the driver’s attention is distracted from the road. It is hoped that increasing the fine from £100 to £200 and doubling the penalty points from three to six will make people think twice about using their mobile phone at the wheel and help to deter them from doing it.”

Drivers who are caught twice for the offence will automatically appear in court and face a fine of £1,000 and a driving ban of at least 6 months.

Over the next few months, the Safer Roads Partnership will doubling their efforts to encourage drivers not to use their mobile while driving and as part of this will be promoting the changes to the penalties. They will support and promote the Police’s enforcement campaigns related to mobile phone use as well as delivering the message via billboard and bus advertising across the county.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I welcome the change in legislation on using a mobile phone behind the wheel.  This shows that the government is taking the matter very seriously.

“Pedestrians and road users are vulnerable to serious injury or even death as a result of drivers being distracted by using mobile phones. We need to get to the point where it is as unthinkable to use a mobile phone as it is to drive without a seatbelt. We must hope that the new penalties will act as a deterrent. Injuries and deaths as a result of mobile phone use are avoidable. The temptation to use mobile phones while driving are considerable in a society where we use this technology all the time. We have to learn to resist.

The Department for Transport has also confirmed it will launch a hard hitting THINK! campaign on the dangers of mobile phone use while driving to raise awareness of the changes.