Road Safety News
 

Mobile phone use at the wheel ‘still rife’

Monday 25th April 2016

95% of motorists regularly see other drivers looking at their phones in stationary traffic, according to a new survey by the RAC.

Published today (25 April), the RAC says the results show that ‘illegal mobile phone use is still rife’, highlighting a lack of publicity and the decline in the number of roads police officers.

64% of the more than 2,000 drivers interviewed said that in the last hour they spent driving they saw at least one driver committing the offence. Of those, 6% claimed they saw between five and seven drivers breaking the law.

The current fine for using a handheld mobile phone when driving is three penalty points and a £100 fine. In January, the DfT launched a consultation into increasing penalties for mobile phone use.

30% of respondents to the survey admitted using a handheld phone at the wheel; 29% claimed they do so occasionally while the other 1% show ‘utter contempt for the current law’ by using their handheld phone on most journeys.

The main reason cited by 61% of respondents was to make a short call, while 49% of those admitting to using a mobile said they had checked email or text messages, and a similar percentage (47%) had sent a text message.

While the survey suggests there is little difference in illegal phone use between male and female drivers (64% male compared to 57% female), a much higher percentage of females confessed to sending a text message (52% compared to 5%).

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “13 years after the introduction of the current law forbidding use of a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle, this behaviour is far from being stamped out. In fact, the results of our research suggests the problem has got worse rather than better.

“The lack of a high profile advertising campaign similar to the ones targeting drink-drivers and speeders has not helped, nor has the decline in the number of roads police officers as there is very little fear among offenders of being caught.

“As a society we need to change drivers’ thinking to make them understand the serious consequences their decision to use their handheld phones can have. Using a handheld phone should be regarded as being as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.”

Photo credit: RAC

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The law states (No. 2695,6,a): "a mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point ..."

The word "held" may be key as it suggests that all phone usage is legal so long as the device is in a holder (and not held). In a holder therefore, it appears to be legal to use the phone for any purpose, such as to make calls, run a sat-nav, send and receive texts, surf the web and even play a game while driving!

Perhaps mobile phone use at the wheel is ‘still rife’ because many citizens are aware of the law and are abiding by it?

There are 2 important questions, though:
Q1: If mobile phone use is so rife, why is the crash rate while on the phone so much lower than when not on the phone?
Q2: Are we interested in finding out the answer to Q1?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (2)
+6

Sadly there are those who think they are above the law - especially the type of law that some see as petty, or a symptom of the 'nanny state'. There are also those who simply don't respond well to rules and being told what to do or how to behave. It seems to be part of a wider sociological problem amd malaise, rather than specific to the rules of the road and driving. When offenders are stopped, other 'anomalies' and evidence of law-breaking are sometimes unearthed.
Hugh Jones

Agree (8) | Disagree (7)
+1

I completely agree with the law that made it illegal to use a handheld phone on the move. However, I feel there is also a certain lack of credibility in the law that also stops people checking their phones in stationary traffic. The road safety case for that particular situation is far from winning over the majority of drivers.
Pat, Wales

Agree (11) | Disagree (5)
+6