The year-long email petition calling for tougher penalties including loss of licence for drivers illegally using hand-held mobiles has failed.

The petition hosted on the Prime Minister’s Number site  was signed by 3,658 people and though disappointingly low, by no means insignificant.

Despite this,  the government has responded by saying it has no plans to alter the penalty for driving while using a hand-held mobile phone.

Allan Ramsay of RoadPeace who at 62 is a successful LVRC competitor, instigated the petition and is bitterly disappointed. He has vowed to fight on. In a way the petition closed at the wrong time – on the eve of a General Election! Because new administrations generally start everything from scratch!

But there’s  a double irony here, too, which just adds insult to injury. Because only recently, the  Transport Road Research Lab’s latest research findings confirmed what they, the government and police, already knew, that using hands-free phones while driving is just as dangerous as hand held, and should be made illegal to use as well. In fact, TRRL said that years ago.

But no one in Government took any notice  then, going only with the hand-held ban and  a penalty which deters no one. And they are taking no notice now. Even though over 10 million drivers a day are breaking the law!

Ramsay makes the following points:

– The government have totally disregarded the logic provided by the Transport Research Laboratory i.e. the reaction time of a texting driver is slowed by 35%, whereas the reaction time of a driver at the drink driver limit is only slowed by 12%.
– Accordingly the penalty should be on a par with that for drink driving.
– In a letter to Ramsay, the Department for Transport wrote: “It (penalty for mobile phone use) is already on a par with speeding offences and that the Department believes that it is the appropriate level though we will consider that as part of finalising the forthcoming road safety strategy later this year.”

But Ramsay points out that whereas  many speeding offences are unintentional i.e. momentary lapses of concentration, using a hand held mobile phone is completely intentional and as such is a total disregard for the law, a total disregard for the safety of vulnerable road users.

– The DfT letter goes on: “You may also be interested to know that where there has been a crash, prosecutors and courts now have formal guidance which means that the use of mobile phones by drivers is to be taken as an aggravating factor when considering charges to be brought and sentencing where a driver has been found guilty”.
– To which Ramsay says: “How satisfying would that be for the cyclist having to spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair or worse?”
– He cites the case of Labour Peer. Lord Ahmed: who was clearly using his phone just moments before a fatal collision but because it couldn’t be proved he was actually using it at the moment of impact he was given lesser sentence.

Any distraction element that would surely have followed using the phone appears to have been totally disregarded, says Ramsay, who says:

– To leave the problem of using hand mobile phones whilst driving, to the point of death or serious injury is not only a waste of life, but also a waste of police time, court time, hospital time and tax payers money and makes no sense whatsoever!
– For the so called Spring period last year, cycling casualties rose by 19% – 820 cyclists killed or seriously injured.
– The likes of the CTC and the AA suggested that this was most likely down to the influx of inexperienced cyclists taking to the road. Nothing to do with the use of hand mobile phones and the cheaper and more fashionable Twitter and Facebook options of texting rather than talking!

Ramsay makes the point that  reaction times are slowed significantly more when texting, compared to driving under the influence. “If irresponsible drivers can never fear losing their lives as many cyclists often do, only fair then that they should fear losing their driving licence.”

  • dave

    I’m afraid Mikes position is a load of nonsense, so he drives a racing car on a track, COMPLETE WITH HANDS FREE OR MOBILE PHONE I THINK NOT.

    Passing the driving test only means you have the basic skills necessary to be allowed to drive unaccompanied on the road.
    No amount of awareness training in motorists, cyclists, pedestrians or Horse riders will change those whose basic perception of speed etc is flawed

  • Brian Gore.

    If the penalty for driving while using a hand held phone resulted in their car being crushed into a nice metal cube would drivers still persist in this dangerous action, i dont think so!
    ( Possible change of government might work.)

  • Mike Parkes

    I happy about this petition failing, I’m not only a dedicated cyclist but I am someone who drives on a regular basis and has been in motor racing all my life. The roads in this country are a huge problem and so are the road users but the solution is not to be harder on drivers, this does nothing but make people more angry and it is unfair on drivers. The problem needs to be tackled from the source and that source is the fact that the driving test in this country is useless. At no point during my lessons 10years ago was I told to be aware of everything around me and I was never taught to notice and take in all the things going on around me, I learned these skills from the motor racing I had done before I was of legal driving age!! People just aren’t aware of what is around them, I had a woman sit at a junction on a empty road the other day for 20seconds as I came towards the junction only for her to pull out as I rode past, missing me by about 2inches, speed wasn’t involves here, neither was her messing with a phone etc the problem was no awareness and it is this single problem which causes most accidents on the road!!

    And to finish off I’d like to say that a number of cyclists are no better, many of us jump pavements etc and I have no argument against this but I do when some idiot doesn’t look first and kills a person. And recently I had a cyclist come up my inside just as I went to turn left into a junction, I had had my indicator on for around 50metres and only missed him because I was aware that he was there, again two examples of no awareness.

    Drivers are not a problem on the roads, the problem is that they are never taught the necessary skills to drive safely on our roads. Only the odd driver is a problem in themselves and that is usually due to them being angry impatient idiots who think getting home 30secs earlier will change their lives!!!

  • Ken Evans

    How about some links on the CW website to the petition,
    to help make clearer what this is actually about.