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Road safety charity calls for tougher punishment for mobile phone drivers


Alex Haithwaite

A NATIONAL road safety charity has called for stronger penalties for UK drivers using their mobile phones, after a lorry driver was jailed for killing a family.

Brake, which is based in Huddersfield, condemned the use of mobile phones claiming they cause a “dangerous lack of concentration”.

Trucker Tomasz Kroker, 30, has been jailed for 10 years for killing Tracy Houghton, 45, her sons Ethan, 13, and Joshua, 11, as well as her partner’s daughter Aimee Goldsmith, also 11.  He was scrolling through music on his phone when his lorry smashed into the stationery family car at 50 mph on the A34 near Newbury in Berkshire.

Gary Rae, campaign director at Brake, said: “Criminal drivers not watching the road receive a 10-year sentence, probably serving just five, which doesn’t begin to do justice to the grieving families.

“We need action from the Government now. Prison sentences for criminal drivers who kill must be strengthened.

“We need increased penalties for illegal phone use behind the wheel and hands-free calls must also be banned.

“We also need more investment in road traffic policing, so drivers breaking mobile-phone laws know they will be caught and punished.”

According to the Department of Transport, 22 people were killed in the UK last year by motorists using their phones whilst driving, and 684 people were injured.

Richard Burnett, Royal Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive, said: “Using hand held mobile phones when driving needs to be eradicated because it is a major cause of accidents.

“The recent 10 year sentence given to a lorry driver for killing a family of four sends out a strong signal to lorry drivers who risk lives through an act of stupidity.”

But the RHA say that there is a difference between hand-held mobile phones and hands-free devices and that they support the use of hands-free devices.

“Hands free devices are an important tool for business because they bring economic and environmental benefits such as reduced mileage for vehicles, which improves efficiency.”

Recent research from the RAC found the number of drivers who think it is acceptable to make a quick call doubled from seven per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2016.

Matt Johnson, a driving instructor at Pontefract Driving School said: “We make all learner drivers switch off their devices before starting a driving lesson.

“We set a policy to give out a quick talk on the first lesson before driving but it is difficult to find time after this.”

Last year, 16,900 motorists in England and Wales were issued with £100 fixed-penalty notices after being caught, a significant drop from 29,700 drivers in 2014.

The penalties will double at the beginning of 2017, now six penalty points and a £200 fine.

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