Drop in drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel

mobile phone when drivingThe dangers of driver distraction are well documented and the consequences of using a mobile phone behind the wheel can be catastrophic. In March the government decided to tackle the problem head-on with new legislation and tougher penalties. Drivers caught using a handheld device will be given six penalty points and fined £200, and initial reports indicate the clampdown is changing motorists’ behaviour.

A leading motoring organisation has been digging through the official figures and discovered that the number of drivers stopped for using mobiles dropped by 10% in the three months after the changes. Put another way that’s 1,700 fewer drivers stopped for illegal mobile phone use. It’s an encouraging start, but alarmingly there were still 14,160 motorists caught breaking the law.

The statistics weren’t spread evenly across the country, and while some police forces reported significant drops (City of London fell by 67%), others reported increases (Kent rose by 42%). Some commentators have pointed-out that the number of drivers caught using mobiles behind the wheel doesn’t necessarily reflect the scale of the problem (especially when police budgets are being squeezed) but the findings do paint an encouraging picture nationwide.

Traffic police numbers have dropped by nearly a third in the past decade and the new penalties should be a ‘wake-up-call’ for motorists who think they won’t get caught. The findings suggest the measures are moving things in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. A recent report by the RAC revealed that 23% of drivers admitted to using a handheld mobile in the past year which adds-up to over nine million motorists.

Most drivers don’t need reminding of the dangers of using a mobile behind the wheel (if your eyes are on the screen; they aren’t on the road), but the statistics are still surprising.  According to Department for Transport figures motorists are four times more likely to have a crash when using a phone. Reaction times are slower, offenders tend to tailgate, and overall driving is more erratic.

One of the most sobering statistics is that reaction times are twice as slow for ‘texting and driving’ compared with ‘drinking and driving’, and it’s about time they both carried the same social stigma.



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