NEW laws to penalise drivers for using mobile phones do not go far enough, it was said today.
The claim was made as stricter penalties for using hand-held mobile phones while at the wheel took effect from today.
The fixed-penalty fine for offenders is doubling from £30 to £60 and, for the first time, those caught using hand-held mobiles will get three penalty points on their licence.
Courts get powers to give a top fine of £1,000 or £2,500 to bus, coach or goods vehicle drivers.
But Huddersfield-based safety charity Brake today demanded an even tougher stance on drivers who persist in using their phones while at the wheel.
Brake is calling for fines of up to £1,000 and police given the power to confiscate mobile phones.
Brake also wants to see the law extended to include hands-free mobile phones, which research shows are just as distracting as hand-held mobiles.
A Brake spokesman said the £60 fine could be compared to the case of a teenage girl who was fined £75 for leaving an ice lolly stick on a wall in Manchester.
Brake spokesman Jools Townsend cited the case of Rebekka Hudd, 11, from Pucklechurch, near Bristol, who died in 1996 after she was hit by a car which mounted the pavement where she was standing.
The driver, David Powell, 42, was dialling out on his mobile phone at the time of the crash.
He was fined £250 and given six penalty points for careless driving.
Ms Townsend said: "Driving is the most dangerous activity most of us do on a daily basis.
"It requires complete concentration.
"The crash that killed Rebekka shows the potentially devastating consequences of being distracted at the wheel.
"Mobile phones continue to cause deaths and injuries on our roads.
"While we are glad the penalty has been increased the new penalties do not go far enough.
"It is high time the Government took steps to ensure the law is properly enforced," she added.
"The Government should also extend the ban on using mobile phones while driving to reflect research which shows that using a hands-free phone at the wheel can be equally deadly."