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.”