Over 52% of drivers questioned by RAC say that tougher penalties should be applied to motorists who use their phones illegally while driving.

Only 41% said they believed the current standard penalty of three penalty points and a fine of £100 was the right level of punishment.

However, despite a majority calling for tougher sanctions, 31% said they didn’t think increasing the severity of the penalty would have any influence on driver behaviour.

Among the 52% of motorists who feel the penalty for illegal phone use should be increased, 21% think both the number of penalty points and the fine should be raised. Twelve per cent said just the fine should be increased, whereas 6% stated that only the points should be.

Around 11% said that disqualification from driving would be the appropriate penalty for illegal phone use, with many saying they believed this is the only deterrent likely to succeed in changing driver behaviour.

Of those who believe the offence ought to carry a higher fine, 61% think it should be at least £200 and 36% believe it should be at least £450. And, amongst those who feel the offence should carry more penalty points, 61% said it should be six points and 14% were in favour of more than six penalty points.

“There is a very strong feeling from law-abiding motorists that something needs to be done to make drivers stop using their phones while driving,” said RAC spokesman Simon Williams. “But while people want the penalties for committing this offence to be beefed up there is also an acceptance that nothing is likely to change due primarily to a lack of enforcement.”

While this research revealed a call for tougher criminal penalties, a second report has called for a much lighter approach, this time in relation to drugs offences.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) says that personal possession and use of all illegal drugs should be decriminalised. It makes this call as part of a wider package of measures aimed at moving UK drugs strategy away from a predominantly criminal justice approach towards one based on public health and harm reduction. The call has been backed by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH).

According to the RSPH, a recent poll found that 56% of respondents agreed that drug users in their area should be referred to treatment, rather than charged with a criminal offence. Only 23% disagreed.

RSPH and FPH recommend adopting a Portuguese-style model under which drug possession is still prohibited, but users are referred to treatment and support programmes, rather than charged with a criminal offence. Producers and suppliers would still be prosecuted.

“On many levels, in terms of the public’s health, the ‘war on drugs’ has failed,” commented Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH. “The time has come for a new approach, where we recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue, and that those who misuse drugs are in need of treatment and support – not criminals in need of punishment.”

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