Anton Balkitis, Partner, Rothera Sharp Solicitors

Traffic Commissioners consider crackdown on mobile phone offences

Partner | Rothera Sharp Solicitors

With Traffic Commissioners (TCs) looking at the case for more stringent action against professional drivers caught using mobile phones, it’s important to examine the potential consequences.

Since February 2007 it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or device whilst driving.  Offenders are usually dealt with by way of an endorsable fixed penalty with a fine of £100 and three penalty points endorsed on their driving licence.

There is now a possibility that HGV drivers will see far more serious consequences of their actions under new plans being considered by TCs.

The industry’s regulators are currently involved in discussions with the DVLA which could lead to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) being automatically notified when a vocational driver picks up penalty points for mobile phone offences, whether that be in a private or commercial vehicle.

At the current time the licensing agency only informs the OTC when a driver with nine points or more applies to renew their licence, or regain it following a period of disqualification.

The proposals being considered include the DVLA informing a driver that a second offence could result in an appearance at a vocational hearing before the TC and the possible suspension of their licence.

TCs want to go a step further and are seeking a change in the law to reflect the Senior TC’s Statutory Directions and Guidance and automatically suspend the licence of an errant professional (HGV/PCV) driver for a period of 21 days for a first offence and 42 days on a second offence.

Further considerations include creating a separate offence for using a mobile phone in a lorry or coach, along with a specific endorsement code that would identify the type of vehicle being driven.

The logic behind the idea seems to be that if the offence was shown to have been committed in a lorry or PCV then the driver would be instructed to appear before the TC at the first offence.

The OTC remains tight-lipped as to the details of the discussions but does confirm that improvements to the current referral system are being considered.  A spokesperson intimated that the objective of the improvements is expected to help target the serially and seriously non-compliant amongst professional drivers.

So, professional drivers beware.  Committing this offence could soon be far more serious than a fixed penalty fine and three penalty points, it could lose you your livelihood.

Rothera Sharp Solicitors