More than half of motorists believe the current penalty for using a mobile while driving should be more severe, according to research by the RAC.
In a survey of 2,100 drivers from the RAC opinion panel, 52% felt the standard penalty of three penalty points and a fine of £100 for drivers caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel should be increased.
Despite the backing for tougher penalties, nearly a third (31%) of those surveyed also said that increasing the penalty will not make any difference at all in changing the behaviour of drivers who are prepared to break the law in this way.
The findings have been published today (13 June) with the outcome of a Government consultation on increasing the penalties for illegal phone use when driving due to be published imminently.
The consultation, launched in January, sought feedback on proposals for increasing the fixed penalty notice (FPN) level from £100 to £150 for all drivers.
It also invited views on increasing the penalty points from three to four points for non-HGV drivers and from three to six points for those who commit the offence while driving an HGV.
Of the motorists who feel the penalty should be increased, a fifth (21%) think both the number of penalty points and the fine should be raised. 12% said just the fine should be increased, whereas 6% stated that only the points should be
11% believe disqualification from driving is the answer, with the majority of those (52%) saying this is the only deterrent likely to make a difference.
Against a back-drop of falling police numbers, two-thirds of the motorists surveyed (68%) stated a desire for more police officers to catch offenders.
Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “In the 13 years since specific legislation was introduced making it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, mobile phones have evolved into smartphones, and the increased features offered by apps and faster internet access has raised interaction among users to near addiction levels.
“While being glued to the screen of a mobile phone when walking is dangerous enough, doing the same thing at the wheel of a vehicle, even just occasionally, is a recipe for disaster.
“Changing this behaviour will only come through a combination of actions. We need more rigorous enforcement of the law, increased penalties that act as a meaningful deterrent and a high profile advertising campaign that makes motorists fully aware of the serious consequences of using a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle.”