Enforcing mobile phone laws: “the dial really needs to be turned up”

09.35 | 29 March 2022 | | 1 comment

Image: THINK!

The majority of drivers are unconvinced that strengthened laws on handheld mobile phone use at the wheel will make the roads safer.

That’s according to a survey published by the RAC to coincide with the law change on 25 March.

Under the new law, almost any use of a handheld phone is punishable with six points and a £200 fine. In essence, it has been introduced to stop drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.

Previous law had stated it is a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving – but a legal loophole ensured drivers had escaped punishment for other actions such as taking photos.

This is because such actions weren’t seen as ‘interactive communication’, and therefore did not fit the previous definition of the offence.

The RAC survey of 2,000 drivers, conducted between 18-21 March, found 43% of respondents weren’t aware of the changes being introduced.

While most 75% were fully supportive of the change in the law, many expressed scepticism as to how effective it will be in getting offending drivers to change their behaviour and make the roads safer. 

Just 2% of drivers said they thought it will be ‘very effective’, with 49% thinking it would be ‘partly effective’ and a similar proportion – 45% – saying it won’t be effective.

Rod Dennis, RAC spokesperson, said: “It’s clear that most drivers are supportive of the law being strengthened to make it easier to prosecute drivers who put lives at risk by using a handheld phone – after all, using a phone to take a photo or look at a playlist is at least as distracting as using it to talk or text.

“But while we welcome today’s law change and very much hope it will make a difference, it’s arguable that it will only be truly effective if it’s rigorously enforced. 

“If some drivers still don’t feel they’re likely to be caught, then simply making the law tougher isn’t going to have the desired effect of making our roads safer. That explains why such a tiny proportion of drivers – just 2% – think the new changes will be very effective in changing behaviour.

“The dial really needs to be turned up when it comes to enforcement, and that means police forces having the resources and technology they need to more easily catch those drivers that continue to flout the law. 

“Cameras that can automatically detect handheld phone use exist and are in use in other countries, so we think it’s high time the UK Government evaluated this technology with a view to allowing police forces to deploy it at the earliest opportunity.”



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    It should be remembered that the offence is a simple summary matter that is subject to a conditional offer of fixed penalty or a court hearing at the magistrates. There should be no requirement to make a forensic examination of the telephone and the evidence of the police witness should be all that is required to convict.
    If, as with the first version of the regulation, those accused of the offence start to advance complex technical defences, then the logical step is to seize the mobile telephone or other hand-held device (YES, this regulation is not exclusive to mobile telephones)on detection of the offence.
    In the normal course of events, seizure of property for a summary offence is not proportional, if an accused person retains the device then alters its records to support the defence, that is a far more serious offence.
    Interesting times ahead.

    Steve Callaghan, Sunderland
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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