Texting and phone use while driving soar in U.K., officials to double penalties

Bruce Brown
Today is National Punctuation Day, so let's stop and appreciate the period
The lexicon of the digital age is one that seems to ignore much of the grammatical conventions that have ruled for the last millennia. But don't worry, traditionalists. One thing is here to stay -- the period.

Transportation officials in the U.K. are done with people texting or using phones while driving. The problem is only getting worse and officials are planning to double the penalties starting in early 2017, according to the International Business Times.

“Your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement. “We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving. I will be announcing a tougher new penalty regime shortly.”

Related: Texting while walking? These in-ground traffic lights should get your attention

In a study by the Royal Automotive Club (RAC) earlier in 2016, 31 percent of those polled said they had used a mobile phone while driving, up from eight percent in a similar poll in 2014. Enforcement numbers do not reflect the increase, dropping from 123,000 motorists fined for using the phone in January 2011 while driving to just 30,000 in the same month in 2016.

The RAC said a combination of fewer law enforcement officers on the roads and more widespread use of smartphones was leading to a problem of “epidemic proportions.”

“Sadly, motorists’ attitudes to using handheld mobile phones while driving appear to be relaxing rather than tightening,” RAC spokesman Peter Williams said. “This is due to the combination of our constantly growing addiction to ever more sophisticated smartphones, coupled with there being little or no fear of being caught in the act as a result of declining numbers of roads policing officers.”

The new penalties will be costly and could result in lost licenses. Drivers caught texting or using their phones while driving will get six points on their license and be fined 200 pounds ($260). For new drivers, who cannot have more than six points on their licenses for the first two years, the penalty will mean immediate license forfeiture. They will also be required to retake their licensing test. Drivers who have had their licenses for more than two years could be fined up to 1,000 pounds ($1,300) for a second offense and lose their license for at least six months.