Advertisement

Mobile phone offences plummet by 39 per cent in a year

Number of motorists caught using a phone behind the wheel falls from 50,000 in 2016 to 30,500 last year

Motorist on mobile phone

The number of drivers caught using a mobile phone when driving has fallen by 39 per cent in a year, with increased fines and tougher penalties cited as reasons for the drop.

Police issued 30,470 fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) for drivers using a phone behind the wheel in 2017, compared to 49,694 in 2016. Penalties for using a mobile when driving increased from three points and a £100 fine to six points and a £200 fine in March 2017.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Police use ‘supercab’ lorries to target dangerous drivers

The research, revealed to comparison website Confused.com following a series of Freedom of Information requests to police, also showed 158,000 individual penalty points issued for mobile phone offences across 2017.

The latest reduction in the number for FPNs being issued didn’t, however, bring about a loss of revenue: the doubling of the fine, coupled with police declining to offer drivers education courses for mobile phone offences, meant income generated from mobile phone FPNs went up from £481,500 in 2016 to £1.2 million in 2017.

A separate survey from Confused.com added weight to the notion that motorists are still using their phones when driving: despite 73 per cent of respondents saying tougher penalties had deterred them from using a phone behind the wheel, only 34 per cent said the new rules had totally put them off.

40 per cent of drivers admitting to reading text messages behind the wheel, while 35 per cent owned up to taking phone calls on the road. Meanwhile, seven per cent said they checked social media when driving, and 84 per cent said they’d witnessed other drivers using a phone behind the wheel.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Commenting on the study, Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: “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.”

But while stricter penalties are likely to be responsible for a significant proportion of that decrease, a decline in traffic police could also be having an impact. Previous research by Auto Express found the number of full-time traffic police officers operating in England and Wales has fallen by nearly a third since 2010 due to budget cuts. Patrol numbers fell from 5,327 to 3,742 between 2010 and 2015, with 36 of the 42 forces recording fewer staff.

These latest figures follow previous findings that revealed even sharper drops in mobile phone use.

Fines for drivers using mobile phones down 86% in 5 years

The number of fines issued for drivers caught using a mobile phone at the wheel plummeted by 86 per cent from 2011 to 2016. Figures from the Home Office showed just 16,900 motorists in England and Wales were handed a fixed penalty notice for using a mobile phone behind the wheel in 2016, compared with 123,000 in 2011.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The news came just a few months after the UK Government announced it would up the penalties for drivers using mobile phones.  

Winter driving tips

Breakdown provider RAC previously found a record number of drivers admitted to using a mobile phone while driving. An estimated 11 million motorists have said they made or received a call in the previous five months while driving, and a further five million admitted to taking photos or videos at the wheel. The report also found motorists' attitudes to mobile phone use had relaxed over the years, with those who say it is acceptable doubling from seven per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2016. 

At the time, RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “The number of fixed penalty notices issued by police forces in England and Wales for illegal handheld phone use at the wheel has, frankly, fallen off a cliff. In 2011, 123,100 notices were given; last year the figure dropped to just 16,900, a staggering 86% fall over five years. Between 2014 and 2015, 43% fewer notices were issued for the offence.

“The figures lay bare the scale of the handheld mobile phone epidemic that has been allowed to sweep across the country largely unchallenged. The simple truth is the problem of illegal handheld phone use at the wheel is undeniably getting worse, with fewer and fewer people being caught.” 

Is mobile phone use while driving becoming an epidemic on UK roads? Tell us what you think in the comments below...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit Concerns as rise of connected cars coincides with sharp increase in cyber attacks
Consumer news

Concerns as rise of connected cars coincides with sharp increase in cyber attacks

Some 67 per cent of new cars registered in the UK are ‘connected’, with automotive cyber attacks rising rapidly
27 May 2020
Visit Driving eyesight rules explained
Consumer news

Driving eyesight rules explained

What is the minimum vision standard required to drive on UK roads? And how can you check your own eyesight before driving?
26 May 2020
Visit Over a million unroadworthy vehicles set to return to the roads
Consumer news

Over a million unroadworthy vehicles set to return to the roads

Nearly 1.1 million vehicles given a six-month MoT extension are projected to have dangerous or major defects
22 May 2020
Visit Calls for car dealerships to reopen as closures costs Treasury £61 million a day
News

Calls for car dealerships to reopen as closures costs Treasury £61 million a day

Every day dealers remain closed costs the Treasury £20 million in lost tax revenue, and £41 million in furlough payments
21 May 2020

Most Popular

Visit New Volkswagen Golf GTI ride review
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New Volkswagen Golf GTI ride review

Hi-tech new controls aim to keep legendary Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch’s driving dynamics at the top of the class
12 May 2020
Visit VW to pay customer £25,000 following new Dieselgate ruling
Volkswagen

VW to pay customer £25,000 following new Dieselgate ruling

Volkswagen has lost a landmark court case in Germany and must now pay significant compensation
26 May 2020
Visit New facelifted BMW 5 Series takes aim at Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class
BMW 5 Series

New facelifted BMW 5 Series takes aim at Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class

The BMW 5 Series has been updated with styling and efficiency tweaks, while a new 545e performance plug-in model joins the line-up
27 May 2020