Mobile phone use ‘rockets’ among younger drivers

09.12 | 21 March 2019 | | 3 comments

A ‘dramatic rise’ in the proportion of working-age drivers admitting to using a mobile phone at the wheel has led the RAC to suggest the benefits of tougher penalties have ‘run their course’.

A new survey, carried out for the RAC’s annual Report on Motoring, suggests 25% of drivers – the equivalent of 10m people – are making or receiving calls while driving, compared to 24% in 2017.

That figure increases to 47% among drivers aged between 25-34 years – a year-on-year rise of 7% in this demographic.

In addition, 36% of drivers aged 25-34 years admit to sending texts, social media posts or emails at the wheel – compared to just 16% of all respondents – while 30% take photos, selfies or videos (compared to 16% of all respondents).

The findings have prompted the RAC to ‘raise a warning flag’ about the ‘apparent fading impact’ of the tougher penalties, introduced in March 2017, which mean those caught committing the offence receive six penalty points and a £200 fine.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “Following the introduction of stronger penalties in 2017, we saw a promising shift with some drivers changing their behaviour for the better and becoming compliant with the law.

“Sadly, that didn’t signal the start of a longer-term trend with drivers now seemingly returning to their old ways and putting themselves and millions of other road users at risk.

“There is still a huge job to do in communicating to drivers the dangers of continuing to mix driving with illegally using a mobile phone.”

‘Savage police cuts’
The road safety charity Brake says the findings ‘shouldn’t come as a surprise’ – referencing cuts in the number of traffic police.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “The introduction of tougher penalties for illegal phone use behind the wheel two years ago was absolutely the right thing to do, however what this research makes clear is that drivers are still failing to comply with the law.

“With savage police cuts resulting in far fewer officers on our roads enforcing the law, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“We need the Government to make roads policing an investment priority so there is an active deterrent to illegal behaviour and drivers who break the law know that they will be caught and punished.”



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    Whilst acknowledging that the reduction in policing is a big part of this issue, it remains unfortunate that the Education and Encouragement around this topic is virtually non-existent. For most driving tasks we have an accepting and generally compliant population that helpfully do not drive recklessly despite the lack of police. Most compliance needs to be embedded in the social DNA of drivers who need to appreciate the risks and morals and social expectations.

    I see the odd road safety advert on-line, I hear a few messages on the radio and see things occasionally in the cinema but where is the big impact effort. effort? THINK has virtually disappeared from our TV screens and many of the techniques used are soft soaping. I recall an impactful Welsh film that reported a head-on crash after mobile phone use. Lets use that and spread it through employers, prime time TV etc. What’s stopping DfT? Perhaps the NHS should fund it instead as its the NHS that picks up the pieces.

    Peter, liverpool
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    I also agree with Brake. Having retired from the Police some 4 years ago,the Force I served with, had reduced RPU numbers down to just over 100, with 3 bases and stretched across two southern counties. When I joined their Traffic division in 1995 there were some 6 bases across the two counties, just having been reduced from 8, and some 360 personnel. The cuts were continuous throughout my service. There are now greater numbers of firarms officers than RPU. As the Dacia advert states, “you do the maths!”. This is a national problem. Of course it does not preclude local divisional units also being similarly affected, but that’s another issue relative to crime and behavioural disorder.
    Whilst some areas increase their numbers, other areas reduce; but driver & riders are aware that noticably reduced numbers of RPU vehicles out on patrol, reduces their likelihood of being detected.

    A. Short, Littlehampton
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    For once I have to say that I agree with Brake; clearly, there is no use having a law if there is not the means to enforce it. The massive reduction is traffic patrols has to be a case in question.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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