A new survey by the RAC suggests that just three in five of drivers who use a handheld mobile phone at the wheel would stop doing so if they caused a collision as a consequence.
The RAC says it is ‘surprised’ the figure is not ‘significantly higher’ given the potential consequences of a collision.
Conducted as part of the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign, the survey gave respondents – all of whom admitted to using a mobile phone illegally – a range of scenarios which might stop them committing the offence.
At 60%, being personally responsible for causing an accident came top, followed by being caught by the police (55%), knowing the victim of an accident where handheld phone use was a factor (54%) and causing a near-miss (53%).
The RAC says the findings suggest a ‘sizeable minority of drivers still do not see anything wrong with using a handheld phone illegally, because they believe they are not likely to cause an accident or be stopped by the police’.
The results appear to be at odds with an an earlier survey carried out for the 2016 RAC Report on Motoring in which 86% of motorists who admitted to using a handheld phone claimed they would be willing to give up the habit for good.
In that survey, drivers said the police would have the biggest influence on them stopping (25% of respondents), leading the RAC to suggest that ‘enforcement of the law is key to getting motorists to change their ways’.
Pete Williams, RAC spokesperson for the Be Phone Smart campaign, said: “It seems reasonable to expect that causing an accident while using a handheld phone would be enough to force every driver to change their ways. But our data suggests otherwise – while six in 10 motorists told us they thought that would motivate them to kick the illegal habit, that indicates a remarkable four in 10 didn’t think it would.
“Handheld phone use has become rooted in the behaviour of some drivers and it is going to take a herculean effort to change their mindset.
“No single action will achieve this. We need a combination of education so drivers understand the dangers, and rigorous enforcement so those breaking the law can expect to get caught.
“There have been some positive changes in recent months. Alongside the new tougher penalties, police forces are giving the offence greater focus with regular high-profile operations targeting offenders.
“As our research shows that the actions of the police could be key in making drivers change their ways, this has to be very welcome.”
Jesse Norman MP, recently appointed road safety minister, said: “It is shocking that so many people still use handheld phones at the wheel, which is why I’m calling on families and friends to make it as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”
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