New drivers in the UK may not stay licensed for long if they text while driving, according to a new law.
The law, which went into action today, penalizes drivers who use a phone while driving. It will add six points to their license, and a fine of £200 (about $245) will be thrown in for good measure. This is double the penalty from before this law came into effect.
New drivers can only accrue a maximum of six points within the first two years. Hitting that limit means drivers must retake both the practical and theory portions of the driver's test, which is far more intense than your average US driving test. Older, more established drivers can rack up 12 points over three years, so it's better for them, but not by much.
"It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users," Chris Grayling, UK transportation secretary, told the BBC. "Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice."
The decision to crack down on texting was due in part to an October crash, where a distracted truck driver killed a mother and her three children. He was sent to prison for 10 years as a result. This new law comes online alongside an ad campaign telling drivers to put the phone down. Police will increase distracted-driving patrols over the next week, as well.
UK drivers can still use their phones as navigation systems, provided the phone is mounted in a hands-free cradle, but an accident stemming from its use can still leave the driver liable. If you must check your phone, you'll need to safely park the car and turn the engine off.