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You could be fined £4,000 for texting while driving

Person using phone while driving - Image courtesy Flickr user Jim Legans, Jr

New fine is fourfold increase on current penalty as magistrates look to get tough on phone use while driving

Drivers caught using their mobile phones at the wheel could be fined a whopping £4,000 under new government plans to crack down on texting motorists.

The new fine represents a fourfold increase in the current penalty cap of £1,000. Magistrates would have the power to fine people caught fiddling with their phones while driving up to £4,000, with a new speeding penalty set at £10,000.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said the new financial penalty would provide magistrates with “greater powers to deal with day-to-day offences” and that bigger fines would be an effective deterrent.

The new punishments were described as “disproportionate and draconian” by Rupert Lipton from the National Motorists Action Group. Edmund King, president of the AA questioned the sharp rise in the fines:

“We would not condone excessive speeding in any way, but fines have to be proportionate. One has to question whether increasing the fines four-fold is proportionate. It probably is not,” he said.

King argued that more “cops in cars” on motorways would be a more effective deterrent to speeding.

“For the vast majority of drivers the prospect of the existing £2,500 fine is a pretty good deterrent against excessive speeding on the motorway,” he said.

The dramatic hikes are the first since 1991, with the government making sweeping changes to the powers magistrates have to impose fines. Under the proposals TV licence evasion could also land people with a £4,000 fine.

The government has been cashing in on motoring offences, having collected a record £284 million in 2012-2013. Proposed increases in fees could come into force quickly with parliament having previously approved extending fines in magistrates’ courts.

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