More than one in 10 UK drivers believe the road safety risks of using a mobile phone at the wheel are ‘overstated’, according to a new study.
The RAC study of 2,000 drivers suggests that 23% believe they can drive safely while using a mobile phone – with 11% saying the risks of the offence are ‘overstated’.
64% of respondent were unaware of the penalties for using a mobile phone at the wheel – while 26% did not know the penalties became more severe in March 2017.
When asked what is key to getting offenders to change their behaviour, 41% said more visible enforcement and 22% said stronger penalties. In total, 31% believe the current penalties are not strong enough.
The survey also shows that 18% of drivers advocate the blocking of mobile phone signals within cars altogether, while 10% think more public awareness campaigns, such as those run by the Government’s THINK! initiative, are needed to educate offenders.
Pete WIlliams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “Despite extensive publicity and awareness-raising campaigns run at both a local and national level, it is remarkable that such a high proportion of drivers seemingly remain unaware of the current penalties for using a handheld phone at the wheel.
“The law around handheld phone use by drivers, and the penalties associated with ignoring it, could not be clearer.
“Yet every year there are dozens of fatal crashes caused by motorists who have allowed themselves to be distracted by their phone – and our own data suggests millions of drivers are continuing to put themselves and others at risk in this way.”
Chief constable Anthony Bangham, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, said: “The law surrounding mobile phone use behind the wheel has been widely publicised, and the increase in penalties last year is representative of how prevalent this dangerous practice is.
“However, notwithstanding the legal repercussions, the main thing we want drivers to do is arrive safely at their destinations.
“When you are driving, the priority should be the safety of yourself, your passengers, and your fellow road users. Whatever is happening on your mobile phone can always wait.”