Crash Check Dummies

The government is considering increasing police powers and giving police the ability to check mobile phone records after routine accidents and prosecute offenders accordingly.

On 1 December 2003, the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving became an offence that was subject to a £30 fine. This week the penalty was increased to three points and £60 following a big advertising campaign and also of the dangers of using any type of phone while driving.

According to the Government’s own figures, mobile phones were linked to 13 deaths on the roads in 2005, as well as 52 serious accidents and 364 minor ones.

Currently, mobile phones and records can be checked only after a fatal accident and on the instruction of a senior officer. However, as part of the Department for Transport’s second review of road safety strategy the government is looking at ways to make it easier for the police to be able to follow the process of investigating whether mobile phone use was a contributory factor in an accident, and thus prosecute more offenders.

This would involve lowering the seniority of the officer who can check the records and also the threshold of the severity of the accident.

The new powers contained in the Road Safety Act also make clear that a prosecution could follow even if the case involved a hands-free phone, if it was found that the driver was distracted by a call at the time of the accident.

It is proposed that police have the authority to check a mobile phone at the scene of an accident, and if the handset has been destroyed call records from the operator would be checked.

A spokesperson for RoSPOA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said "There may be a number of crashes which do not result in a fatality which could be associated with the use of a mobile phone,".

John Reid, the Home Secretary, insisted today’s changes would help tackle the "real" dangers, but did not rule out going further, and has been looking into whether seizing phones would provide a greater deterrent.

"[I’m] always open to suggestion that the phone should be confiscated, although given their widespread availability and relatively cheap cost this may not be a deterrent," he said.

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