Planned clamp down on drivers using mobiles ‘not enough’

Laws could be toughened on using a mobile whilst driving
Laws could be toughened on using a mobile whilst driving

The brother of a man killed by a van driver using a mobile phone has said proposals to double the punishment for using a device behind the wheel are not enough.

Darrell Martin said police told him there was 90 seconds of clear road when driver Christopher Gard, who had at least six previous convictions for using a phone at the wheel, could have seen his brother Lee, but did not.

He ploughed into the cyclist at 65mph on August 12 last year.

Gard, of Alton, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of 48-year-old Mr Martin, who was taking part in a time trial event on the A31 near Bentley with the North Hampshire Road Club.

The 30-year-old was sentenced to nine years in prison and was also banned at Winchester Crown Court from driving for 14-and-a-half years.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Darrell Martin said the proposals set to be announced - seeing the punishment increased to six points on the licence and a £200 fine - are not enough.

“I do wonder who they are aiming the £200 fine at, whoever is driving a car around £200 is affordable, it can just be written off as another driving cost,” he said.

“£200 is not a deterrent, for most people it is just a minor inconvenience.”

He said when using a mobile phone while driving first became illegal “all you could do was write a little text message, make a phone call and play snake”, but now “you can do everything”.

Mr Martin suggested driver awareness courses should be available to drivers before an offence is committed.

Kevin Delaney, from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, who also appeared on the show, said he thinks the new punishment “will struggle”.

“We have had the regulations now for about 13 years or so and they haven’t been particularly successful - that is despite the fact that government increased the penalties twice, at least, in that time,” he said.

As a former head of the Metropolitan Police’s traffic division, he said “technology is providing yet ever more opportunities for driver distraction”.

He added: “Not just from mobile phones, which are really mobile communication devices, but also from the touch screen fitted into the dashboard of all cars.

“This will not only provide you with route guidance but will also provide you with access to social media and everything else that your computer at home would.”

He said the plans are an “attempt for legislation to play catch-up with technology”, adding: “We need more than just tinkering with the penalties.”

Mr Delaney suggested a combination of driver education and getting the mobile phone companies and motor manufacturers to “devise systems that would restrict use” within the car to route guidance or dialling 999.

“I don’t think either of those will ever be achieved without new legislation, legislation which not only necessarily mandates it but tries to deal with the explosion of information which is available to drivers of cars,” he said.