Government survey tracks mobile phone and seat belt usage

12.46 | 7 February 2019 | | 2 comments

Image: RAC

The percentage of drivers using a mobile phone behind the wheel – and those not wearing a seat belt – both appear to have fallen slightly in recent years.

In a roadside observation survey, commissioned by the DfT and Transport Scotland, 1.1% of drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile phone in 2017 – compared to 1.6% in 2014.

The survey also shows a higher proportion of drivers committing the offence in Scotland (2%) compared to England and Wales (0.6%).

Looking at different types of vehicle, 1% of car drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile – compared to 3.3% of taxi drivers and 2.1% of van drivers.

There was also a slightly higher proportion of male drivers (1.2%) than female drivers (1.1%) seen using a mobile.

The observational survey, published on 7 February, also highlights a slight increase in the number of drivers wearing seat belts.

96.5% of drivers were observed using a seatbelt in 2017 – compared to 95.3% in 2014.

93.1% of front seat passengers and 90.7% of rear seat passengers were also observed using a seatbelt.

In terms of vehicle type, 98.6% of car drivers were observed using a seatbelt, compared to 70.8% of taxi drivers.

The problem ‘far from gone away’
Responding to the survey results, the RAC says drivers will be ‘very sceptical of these findings’, adding that ‘the problem has far from gone away’.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “It’s good news these figures show improved compliance with the law in England and Wales, but worrying they were far higher in Scotland.

“It is also important to recognise the vast majority of these surveys were carried out months after the penalty for using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel was increased. It stands to reason the ‘fear factor’ of the tougher penalties would be greater in the time immediately after they were introduced.

“Anecdotally, we still see too many drivers either talking on their handheld phones or interacting with them. And perhaps more worryingly, our own research with drivers suggests the problem has far from gone away.

“As a result we suspect many drivers will be very sceptical of these findings as they don’t reflect what they see on a daily basis.”



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    It certainly will confuse the motoring public.

    Simply Google % of motorists who admit to using mobile phones while driving.

    The results will vary form perhaps 13% to 49% depending upon which report you read.

    Presumably this is not the motorist admitting to using it once a year but perhaps 4 or 5 times a day while driving.

    Multiply this by the number of motorists, number of day and number of times used then it is an incredible number of uses.

    Motorists will also be selective when and where they use their mobile phones, so selecting a different static position for the survey will result in different figures.

    Clearly a motorist stopping at a relight or a junction using a mobile phone is likely to be more identifiable than when moving.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (2)

    For those who number amongst the ‘very sceptical’, it is easily checked – watch traffic from a fixed point and count the number of drivers on the phone and/or not wearing seat belts. It’s something we used to do regularly at the same location…. it helps if it’s a slow-moving, busy road obviously. From memory, the results given above are not far off. The reason for any scepticism is probably because we tend to notice and remember those on the ‘phone, more than we notice those who aren’t and therefore are not actually counting and we assume the percentage is higher than it is.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

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