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RAF MILDENHALL, England — Motorists in Britain now face steeper penalties for driving while using a mobile phone, including points on their license and a doubling of fines.

A new law went into effect Tuesday that increases fines to 60 British pounds (about $120) and adds three points to the motorists’ license if they are caught driving while using a mobile phone, according to the British Department of Transport.

Motorists can have their license revoked if they accumulate 12 points. The old penalty was 30 pounds, with no points against the license.

Police are expected to be heavily enforcing the law against driving and using a cell phone in the days following the increased penalties.

“Just hang up, that’s the message,” Department of Transport spokesman Ben Willis said.

If motorists dispute the charge in court, they face a maximum penalty of 1,000 pounds. The driver of a bus or heavy vehicle will face a penalty of 2,500 pounds.

A motorist also can be prosecuted for driving while using a hands-free mobile device if the officer deems the driver is not in proper control of his vehicle, according to the Department of Transport.

A work supervisor who requires an employee to take a mobile-phone call while driving also can be prosecuted.

“It is an offence to cause or permit the use of a handheld mobile phone when driving,” according to a Department of Transport press release.

“It is also an offense to cause or permit a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle.”

The British government launched a nationwide publicity campaign to educate drivers on the new policy in late January with announcements on radio and television and in newspapers.

The British law on mobile phones largely coincides with existing Air Force regulations.

“Vehicle operators, joggers and bicyclists are prohibited from using cell phones or other similar devices while in the traffic environment,” stated a public affairs release from RAF Lakenheath, citing Air Force instruction. “Do not wear any listening device which impedes hearing and detection of impending danger.”

Senior Airman Michael Russano agrees with the law, however he acknowledges potential for conflict.

“I think it’s fine. A lot of drivers get distracted with a cell phone. Some can handle it, but others can’t,” said Russano, 22, of Vero Beach, Fla. “But then again, when you’re on call for the military, they don’t give you a hands-free phone and you have to answer that call.”


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