Baroness condemns mobile-phone drivers

Picture by David Jones/PA Wire
Picture by David Jones/PA Wire

People who drive while using their mobile phones are as dangerous as drink-drivers or motorists under the influence of drugs.

The stark warning was issued during a Parliamentary debate earlier this month, highlighting the hidden killer of using mobile phones while driving.

The debate was called by Conservative peer Baroness Emma Pidding who praised the Drive for Justice campaign – which is run by Johnston Press newspaper titles, including the Northumberland Gazette.

The campaign is fighting to give families affected by the anguish of road deaths as a result of reckless and criminal driving a voice to bring about change and better justice.

An investigation last month revealed how dangerous drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just four years in prison, with dozens escaping jail altogether.

And not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence from 10 years in 2004.

Lady Pidding said: “I congratulate the Johnston Press group and its investigations unit, which last month ran a series of hard-hitting stories highlighting the gap between sentencing for killer drivers and the level of sanctions expected by grieving families.

“The Drive for Justice campaign is a major contribution to the national debate and a significant boost for public awareness.”

Lady Pidding highlighted the spiralling death rate from accidents caused by drivers distracted while using their mobile phones, in contrast with a marked fall in the number of fixed penalty notices for phoning while driving.

She said: “I see phone-driving as the hidden killer. I want it to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving has and I want the criminal justice system to tackle it with equal vigour.”

From 2011 to 2015, there were 2,106 accidents resulting in 103 deaths which were caused by drivers being distracted while on their mobile phones. A further 15,155 accidents in this period were caused by other distractions from inside the car, which resulted in 349 deaths.

Yet despite this, the number of fixed-penalty notices issued in England and Wales for using hand held mobile phones while driving, fell significantly from 123,100 in 2011 to 16,900 in 2015.

She called for a multi-pronged approach to the problem to include increased fines and penalty points for phone driving and life sentences for dangerous driving.

Lady Pidding said: “Public awareness and perception is key to this and I commend the media organisations which have campaigned on this issue, notably the Drive for Justice campaign.”

To sign our Drive for Justice petition, visit tinyurl.com/zcgja88