RAF MILDENHALL, England --
Drivers still continuing to ignore both British law and Air Force instructions now face tougher penalties, in the form of a 60-pound fine and three points on their driving license.
Offenses dealt with by summons will face a fine of up to 1,000 pounds, according to the Suffolk Police Web site (www.suffolk.police.uk
). Additionally, motorists also face prosecution for using a hands-free phone if they're not in control of their vehicles.
U.S. military members and their families aren't exempt from British law and face a fine and possible prosecution if caught driving while on the phone.
"Using hand-held cell phones, while operating a motor vehicle in the traffic environment on or off base, is illegal," said Master Sgt. Rodney Whitaker, 100th Air Refueling Wing Ground Safety manager. "Personnel are violating Air Force Instruction 91-207, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Supplement IC1, paragraph 12.1; the Highway Code Book, paragraph 127, page 32 and British law. If you truly need to answer or use your cell phone, pull over and stop in a safe area."
The law was originally introduced in 2003 and, according to the BBC News Web site (www.bbc.co.uk
), in 2005, 13 deaths and 400 injuries were blamed on drivers using hand-held mobile phones.
"Research shows that talking on a mobile phone while driving affects your concentration and ability to react to dangerous situations," said Douglas Alexander, Transport Secretary, according to the Department of Transport Web site (www.dft.gov.uk
). "It's quite simple - it's impossible to do two things at once and do them well."
The DoT Web site also states that reports have shown driving while using a mobile phone is even more dangerous than drunk driving. The Suffolk Police Web site also says it has been shown that a driver is four times more likely to be involved in a collision when using a mobile phone.
The only exception is if the driver has to call 999 in a genuine emergency, when it's unsafe or impractical to stop.