Officers could seize your phone on the spot if you use it while driving, police leader suggests

Picture by PA of driver using phone.
Picture by PA of driver using phone.
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Mobile phones used illegally by drivers could be confiscated, a rank and file police leader has suggested.

Police Constable Jayne Willetts, the Police Federation of England and Wales's roads policing lead, said officers could seize mobiles or Sim cards as a deterrent.

One motoring group claimed such a "blunt and brutal" measure may be necessary to tackle the issue.

It is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, with those falling foul of the rules facing penalty points and a fine.

Twenty-two people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents on Britain's roads in 2015 where a motorist using a mobile was a contributory factor.

Calls for efforts to curb the practice have intensified in recent months following high-profile cases and research indicating it is widespread.

Speaking at a roads policing conference in Hinckley, Leicestershire, Pc Willetts said: "As technology is rapidly progressing, I fear our legislation is already behind the times.

"Is the seizure of mobile phones or their Sim cards - along with an education system - the way forward, combined with fines? I don't know, but it's a question worth asking."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, told the Press Association that losing their smartphone could be "a bigger deal" than regular punishments for some drivers.

He went on: "With far too many people still flouting the law, maybe it will take something as blunt and brutal as 'you use it, you lose it' to get the message across."

An AA poll of more than 19,000 motorists in November found that two-thirds (65%) would support such a measure being introduced.

Some 44% even advocated officers smashing mobiles in front of offenders, with the same proportion in favour of the police sending a text to all contacts in a phone to spread news of what the driver has done.

The Department for Transport is set to introduce legislation to increase the punishment for using a handheld mobile while driving.

AA president Edmund King said: "We actually believe that the Government's intention of doubling the penalty points to six and increasing the fine to £200 will be effective if enforced.

"Six points means that drivers within two years of passing their test will lose their licence and have to re-sit their test. One text and they will be out."

Transport minister Andrew Jones told the conference he wants to make using a phone behind the wheel "as socially unacceptable as drink-driving".

More than 40 drivers were caught on their phones every hour during a police crackdown in November.

This week, constabularies around the country are running targeted operations, including patrols using unmarked vans, high vantage points and helmet cameras.

Home Office data shows 16,900 drivers were handed fixed penalty notices for illegally using a phone in England and Wales in 2015, compared with 123,100 in 2011.

Motoring groups believe the decline is partly due to a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015.