A DAD who has campaigned for tougher laws on drivers using mobile phones for nearly 20 years has said new stricter penalties are too little, too late.
James Pratley, of Queen Emma’s Dyke, Witney, launched his campaign in 1998 after his Rover was hit by another car driven by a man using a mobile.
At the beginning of this month, new laws came into effect meaning motorists illegally using a device while driving will now be given six points and a £200 fine – double the previous three points and £100 penalty.
For years, he wrote to MPs arguing sooner or later a major tragedy would take place involving a distracted lorry driver, a premonition which sadly came true when Tomasz Kroker killed four people on the A34 last August.
Witney's Liberty Baker was also killed in 2014 when she was hit by a car that was being driven by someone who has received a text message moments before.
Mr Pratley, 68, said: “I just think about the amount of lives that could have been saved if they had done something all those years ago.
“I have always maintained that it should be a fine of several hundred pounds and at least six points. It felt like I was banging my head off a brick wall.
“It is good and I do think the new laws will prevent some from doing it, particularly those who have points on their licence already, but I would still like to see the fine at £500."
After the crash in 1998, Mr Pratley was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital where he was given X-Rays and fitted with a neck brace. Later that year he began his campaign with a letter to the then Home Secretary Jack Straw, urging him to make mobile phone use while driving a specific offence.
In August 2000, Mr Pratley appeared on the front page of the Gazette's sister paper, the Oxford Mail, backing its 'Can't Talk - I'm Driving' campaign, which called for legislation against the use of mobiles at the wheel.
Mr Pratley, speaking to reporters at the time, asked how many people had to be killed before using a mobile while driving was made an offence. He said people knew their concentration was effected while using the devices, but continued because no law was in place.
When David Cameron took his seat in the Witney constituency in 2001, Mr Pratley began sending the MP regular letters, first urging him to help introduce laws and then to make them stronger.
He said: "I felt like I was the only one. I wrote to David Cameron and I asked him whether it would take a coach or lorry driver to crash and kill several people before something was done.
"A lot of deaths could have been avoided if MPs and the people who run the country had brought this in years and years ago."
In December 2003, five years after Mr Pratley began his campaign, a fixed penalty of £30 was introduced for drivers using their mobile.
Though pleased with the recognition of the offence, Mr Pratley maintained the fine was not enough to deter motorists and that penalty points were needed to threaten the licence of offending drivers.
In 2007 the fine was increased to £100 and three penalty points introduced for offenders, before the most recent change to six points and £200 on March 1 this year.