British drivers could face jail for using mobile

LONDON Thu Dec 20, 2007 5:57pm EST

A mobile phone is used in a car in this posed photograph in central London February 27, 2007. British motorists caught talking on a hand-held mobile phone or sending a text while driving could be jailed under guidelines due to be published on Thursday. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A mobile phone is used in a car in this posed photograph in central London February 27, 2007. British motorists caught talking on a hand-held mobile phone or sending a text while driving could be jailed under guidelines due to be published on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - British motorists caught talking on a hand-held mobile phone or sending a text while driving could be jailed under guidelines due to be published on Thursday.

In the most serious cases, they could be charged with dangerous driving, which carries a two-year maximum sentence and an unlimited fine, according to a BBC report.

Currently, motorists face an automatic fine and three points on their license under the lesser charge of careless driving.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald said earlier this year that drivers who flout the law and drive dangerously should face tougher penalties.

"There is widespread public concern about the use of mobile phones and other hand-held electronic equipment while driving," he said.

No one at the Crown Prosecution Service could be reached immediately for comment.

Using a hand-held mobile while driving was banned in 2003, but thousands of drivers flout the law each day.

Motoring groups said some drivers ignore the ban because the police have failed to charge enough people.

Sheila Granger, campaigns manager at the RAC, told the BBC: "We'd like to see police on the streets taking action. The best deterrent is for a motorist to be either pulled over themselves or know someone else who has been stopped."

The ban does not cover hands-free phones, but drivers who use them can still be charged if police think they're not in control of their car.

Drivers are four times more likely to crash if they are holding a mobile or sending a text while at the wheel, the Department for Transport says.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne was fined 100 pounds last month after admitting speaking on his mobile while driving in Birmingham.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Steve Addison)

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