As a means of attempting to deal with the widespread, and very dangerous, practice of texting while driving, the UK’s government will begin utilizing “much tougher penalties” against offenders, according to recent reports.
The rule change will see offending drivers given 6 points on their license and a £200 fine. Importantly, though, this isn’t everything — new drivers may be forced to retake their driving tests, and experienced drivers may be forced to go to court, with the possibility of 6-month driving bans and £1,000 fines hanging over their heads.
This is certainly an improvement over the penalties now (3 penalty points and a £100 fine), but I wonder if that’s really enough to stop many people from texting or looking at their smartphones while driving. Some people seem to be psychologically addicted to doing so, and the risk of penalties at this scale may not be enough to break them out of that addiction. Steeper penalties would be a better option, in my opinion.
Texting while driving is a very dangerous activity, one that results in quite a large number of deaths and serious injuries every year. And yet it’s considered a benign activity by many (“I won’t crash while texting, only stupid people do, not me, blah blah blah”), so if penalties are going to put a dent in the activity, then they probably need to be pretty steep.
The changes are expected to go into effect sometime during the first half of 2017, according to the UK’s Department of Transport.
The BBC provides more: “But Darrell Martin, whose brother was killed by a driver on his phone, said the penalties did not go far enough. ‘For the majority of people it will just be another expensive (bit) of motoring, it’s not really a deterrent is it? Six points isn’t the same as the immediate ban with drink driving.’ His brother, cyclist Lee Martin, was killed when he was hit by a van driven by Christopher Gard in 2015. Earlier this month, Gard, 30, from Alton, Hampshire, was jailed for nine years after admitting causing death by dangerous driving. The 30-year-old had at least six previous convictions for using a phone at the wheel. ‘…the text message that killed my brother, the bloke was writing about he was going home to meet his mate and take his dog for a walk. That’s the end of my brother’s life… it’s pointless, absolutely pointless.'”
Continuing: “Earlier this week, a survey by the RAC suggested nearly a third of UK motorists text, make calls, and use apps while at the wheel, with the number having risen since 2014. Of the 1,700 people questioned by the motoring organisation, 14% said they had even taken photos and made films while driving. Department for Transport figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014, including 21 that were fatal and 84 classed as serious.”
Notably, the changes discussed above will apparently only affect England, Scotland, and Wales — not Northern Ireland.
As far as how this relates to what we do here at “CleanTechnica,” the connection is to autonomous driving technologies, and safer passenger transport. It’s apparent that, to a great many people, driving is not something they like to do — they would prefer to look at their phone, drink alcohol, possibly even to take a nap. That’s probably where much of the value in self-driving cars resides — if we take the people who don’t actually like driving (and thus don’t pay attention) off the roads, we can probably slash auto accident and fatality rates pretty substantially.
While we’re on the subject, Werner Herzog was commissioned awhile back to make a short documentary film on the subject of texting while driving, and the accidents that often result from the behavior. You can watch that below if interested:
Tip of the hat to Philip Waterhouse for the story.
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