PRISON SENTENCES FOR TEXTING DRIVERS

Its an offence punishable with a prison sentence of up to 12 months for phoning, texting or accessing the web while driving – but only if you live in Singapore.

The country, which once famously banned chewing gum, is now enforcing a law that bans you from holding your mobile device while driving, with fines of up to 2,000 Singapore dollars (about £1,000) for repeat offenders or up to a year in jail.

With fines for the same offence in the United Kingdom being a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three points on your licence, leasing company Flexed.co.uk car says it's high time that similar harsher sentences were considered for British drivers.

"For many, texting or phoning behind the wheel is still seen as an acceptable risk," says Mark Hall from Flexed.co.uk. "People still do it because they know their chances of being caught are slim.

"But would the prospect of a prison sentence deter British drivers? We think it would."

The new law in Singapore which came into force on 1st February promises a 6-month sentence and/or a £500 fine for first offenders; while repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year and/or face a £1,000 fine. Texting, phoning or accessing the web with a hand-held mobile device is banned, but only if the vehicle is moving. Using your phone at traffic lights is still allowed in Singapore (but remains banned in the UK). Drivers are encouraged to use hands-free kit.

Singapore-based British ex-pat teacher Debbie Cross told Flexed that the new law is being treated as a sizeable hump in the road of life on the island.

"There's so many other things banned here, but this is one that people are taking seriously. Taxi drivers are going to be hit especially hard, as they rely on their mobiles to pick up fares," she says.

Flexed.co.uk asked British drivers if they would avoid texting or phoning at the wheel if there was a prospect of a prison sentence, and the vast majority said it would totally deter them from taking the risk. Less than one-in-ten of drivers interviewed by Flexed said that harsher punishments wouldn't stop them from phoning, texting or even updating their social media timelines while driving.

Flexed.co.uk says that British drivers only end up in court if they have been involved in an accident while using their phone illegally, and thinks that this is the wrong way of addressing the problem.

"In this case the law only reacts with severity after unacceptable behaviour has resulted in a serious accident," says Ratcliffe.

"Think of it as a workplace health and safety issue. When you have people driving tons of machinery at high speed while distracted by something that is already illegal, the law should be about preventing accidents, not reacting after it's far too late."

Statistics from a number of influential studies into mobile phones and driving find that 23% of motor accidents are now caused by drivers being distracted by a mobile device.

The statistics speak for themselves, Flexed says, and show the need for a review of the law to prevent dozens – if not hundreds – of needless fatalities and life-changing injuries every year.