Motorists continuing to use mobile phones despite new penalties

12.00 | 30 May 2017 | | 5 comments

More than 200 drivers a day were caught using a mobile at the wheel in the four week period after tougher penalties for the offence came into effect, new figures obtained by the Press Association show.

The subject of a BBC News report yesterday (29 May), the figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request to police forces across the UK.

In the 28 days from 1 March, when the doubled penalty of £200 and six penalty points came into force, 5,977 incidents were reported – more than a third of which were in London.

Figures obtained by BBC Radio Wales last week also showed that the number of Welsh motorists caught using their mobile phones went up in March 2017.

According to Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, the high number of people breaking the law means the ‘key message still isn’t sinking in’.

He told the BBC: “Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen.”

Details of incidents reported by police: 

  • A man doing his online banking while driving along the M5 motorway near Birmingham
  • Norfolk Police stopped a woman who was responding to a message about her lost puppy being found
  • A man using his phone while driving a 7.5-tonne lorry around a roundabout in Bournemouth 

On the back of the new figures, road safety charity Brake called for the £200 fine to be ‘significantly increased’ to deter offenders.

Jack Kushner, Brake spokesman, said: “Driver distraction is a growing menace and it’s worrying that drivers don’t seem to be getting the message.”

AA president Edmund King said changing drivers’ attitudes would take time, stressing the need for education and enforcement.

He told the BBC: “We know we can’t change the attitudes and actions of all drivers overnight.

“We now have stricter penalties so need to continue with education campaigns (including driving schools) plus more police enforcement.”

In 2015 – the latest year for which figures are available – 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents where a driver was using their phone.

Want to know more about mobile phones and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    Pat, and that I guess is based on the user only using once a day. As we know that is not the case. Based on 35% of drivers admitting to using phones while driving (probably multiple times a day). It is perhaps more like 6 billion + occasions a year mobile phones are used while driving. Clearly the chance of getting caught is minimal.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I think a fine of £200 and six penalty points is enough for those who get caught. But it obviously is not enough to cause a behaviour change in habitual offenders.

    With more than 45 million active driving records in GB (according to the DVLA), 200 drivers caught per day equals almost a quarter of a million to one odds on getting caught. Odds that many are inclined to think are worth the risk (if they think at all). More visible policing enforcement generating an increased probability of getting caught is the key to changing behaviour.

    Pat, Wales
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    I doubt that previous non-offenders have started to become offenders Charles! It’s more likely that usage has either remained the same, despite the penalty increase, or ideally reduced. Only discreet surveys over a period could show this. Asking the police how many they’ve caught does not necessarily reflect the actual number of offences still taking place (or not).

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Presumably, if the number of offenders has increased since the penalties were increased, the authorities will now be seriously considering a reduction in penalties back to the previous, safer, levels.

    Charles, England
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    Rather than absolute figures, a percentage or ratio, would be more indicative of the extent of offenders e.g. a few years ago surveys showed typically one in a hundred drivers using their phones – is it now more, less, or the same?

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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