Number of drivers caught using mobile phone goes down

Crime / Mon 5th Mar 2018 at 10:54am

MORE than 4,000 drivers in the East of England were issued FPNs for using their mobile phone behind the wheel in 2017, down from 6,723 the previous year(1).

But the amount authorities collected MORE THAN TRIPLES due to heftier penalties due to heftier penalties and police declining to offer education awareness courses.

In total, 30,500 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued to drivers in the UK for using their mobile phone behind the wheel in 2017 compared to 50,000 in 2016.

BUT WHEN IS IT LEGAL? Traffic police inspector answers drivers’ questions on using a mobile behind the wheel in FAQ guide, as one in 10 (11%) UK drivers complain the law is unclear.

Harsher punishments for using a mobile phone behind the wheel seems to have scared drivers in the East of England into abiding by the rules, as the number of offenders on the region’s roads has dropped 36% in just one year(1). This is following the introduction of harsher penalties for the offence, which doubled to £200 and six penalty points in March 2017(2).

The number of FPNs issued to drivers in the East of England dropped to 4,282 in 2017 according to new figures obtained by Confused.com, the driver savings site, through Freedom of Information requests to the region’s police forces. This is down from a whopping 6,723 in 2016 – a 36% drop in just 12 months.

But while the law has had the desired effect of reducing the number of people using their phones behind the wheel, it has also led authorities to pocket more money. The figures suggest the amount collected in fines from offenders in the East of England has tripled (226%) in 2017. At least £427,500 was paid in fines by offenders in the region in 2017, up from £131,200 in 2016(3).

And a very similar picture can be seen across the UK, with the number of offences plummeting year-on-year. In 2017, the number of FPNs issued to drivers dropped to 30,470, from a whopping 49,694 in 2016 – a 39% drop in just 12 months. And the total amount collected in fines across the UK has more than doubled (151%) in 2017. At least £1,207,300 was paid in fines by offenders in 2017(3), up from £481,500 in 2016, due to fines increasing to £200 from March, and police now declining to offer education courses. And with the profit made from these fines increasing, UK roads will benefit from a bit of extra spending.

But it isn’t just the fines that will be stinging motorists. With the punishment now seeing offenders served six points instead of three, new drivers will lose their licence. In total, a whopping 157,847 points were dished out to offenders throughout last year, with 23,524 endorsements served for six points(4).

Further research by Confused.com suggests there are still some grey areas around mobile phones and the law, with more than one in 10 (11%) UK drivers saying they think the law is unclear. To educate drivers on when they can and can’t touch their phone while behind the wheel, Confused.com has partnered with Inspector Rob Gwynne-Thomas to create an FAQ guide to clear up any confusion on the law. Currently, the law states that holding or touching a mobile phone at any point while driving is an offence, including while stationary, unless it is an emergency. But worryingly, more than one in four (27%) don’t know that entering a location in Google Maps, or tapping the phone screen (26%) while behind the wheel is illegal. And more than one in six (17%) don’t think making or answering a non-emergency call via the phone handset is illegal.

However, all of these would count as an offence, unless the car is safely parked.

The research by Confused.com echoes the findings of the investigation, with the punishment seeming to have changed drivers’ attitudes towards the offence. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) of UK drivers say the harsher punishment has deterred them from using their mobile phone while driving, with more than a third (34%) saying they have stopped completely. It is a good thing the punishment for the offence has been tightened, as there are many drivers out there who have admitted to breaking the law at some point. In fact, four in 10 (40%) have read a text and more than a quarter (35%) admit they have answered a call using their handset. Worryingly, one in 15 (7%) have also used social media while behind the wheel.

But there are also some drivers that think the law could be a little more relaxed and should only apply when the vehicle is moving (12%). In fact, one in seven (14%) say they think it should be legal to use a mobile phone while stuck in traffic, and one in 10 (11%) say it should be allowed when stationary at traffic lights. But what is certain is that the law has clearly made an impact on UK roads, and almost a quarter (23%) of drivers have found there is more of a stigma of using a mobile phone while driving since the introduction of the new punishment.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “Since the penalties for using a mobile phone behind the wheel have gone up, it’s encouraging to see it has had the desired effect by reducing the number of motorists committing the offence.

“What’s worrying is so many drivers are still in the dark about what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving. We’ve set out to clear up where drivers’ stand in relation to the law with the help of the UK traffic police and our FAQ guide.

“Using a mobile phone while driving can have serious consequences, and drivers may forget that being caught committing the offence could damage their driving record and could bump up their car insurance premium. And with the car insurance coming to £827(5) on average, we’re sure drivers could do without anything which increases this cost. Drivers looking to keep their car insurance costs down should shop around at Confused.com, where they could save up to £279(6) on their premiums.”

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