A new survey by the RAC suggests that as many as 9m drivers could still be using their mobile phones at the wheel, despite the introduction of tougher penalties.
Published today (21 Sept), the survey of more than 1,700 respondents found that 26% of those who were aware of the increased penalties still use their mobile while driving – the equivalent, according to the RAC, of 9.2m motorists.
However, the number of respondents who say they make or receive calls at the wheel has fallen year-on-year by a quarter – down from 31% in 2016 to 23% in 2017.
The RAC says the survey shows drivers believe they can still get away with the offence, while the road safety charity Brake describes the use of mobiles phones at the wheel as a ‘growing menace’.
In the survey, undertaken as part of the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2017, 89% of respondents are now aware of the tougher penalties, which came into effect on 1 March 2017.
Of that 89%, 16% – the equivalent of 5.7m drivers – said they have stopped using a handheld phone altogether since the law change, while a further 11% (3.9m) said they have curbed their illegal behaviour ‘a little’.
However, 15% – or 5.3m drivers – said the increased penalties have not made them stop.
The RAC survey also shows that handheld mobile phone use by drivers increases when vehicles are stationary.
40% of respondents admitted to talking on their phone while stationary in traffic – compared to the overall total of 23%.
39% admitted to checking texts, emails and social media, while 29% confessed to having written a text, email or social media post while their car was stationary.
In addition, 16% said they have taken photos or video – although this figure is down 27.3% on the 2016 survey.
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “Despite the law change and some high profile police enforcement campaigns we are in a situation where overall roads policing officer numbers are down on 2016 by a massive 30% since 2007.
“It is clear we have a hard core of persistent offenders who believe they can get away with it by continuing to flout the law every day and we fear this may get worse with fewer dedicated roads policing officers.”
Jason Wakeford, Brake’s director of campaigns, said: “The illegal use of handheld mobile phones when driving is a growing menace and a major threat to road safety.
“Research shows that using a phone at the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a crash.
“As a society, we have become addicted to our mobiles. Drivers should always put phones on silent and out of reach in the glove compartment.
“The mobile phone industry must also play its part, including technology as standard which helps keep drivers’ attention on the road, saving lives and preventing serious injuries.”
Category: Mobile phones.