SEVEN million motorists — representing one in five cars on UK roads — are still using a handheld mobile phone while driving, despite tough new penalties being introduced a year ago, according to a new study.
The survey of 2,000 motorists, by vehicle CCTV (dash cam) specialist SmartWitness, shows that fewer motorists are flouting the law since the penalty for offending were doubled to six points on a licence and a £200 fine, representing an automatic ban for anyone who has held their licence for less than two years. One in four drivers were using their phones while driving at the time the new penalties were brought in on March 1, 2017.
And figures from the Ministry of Justice show the number of offenders convicted of “using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone while driving” fell by nearly half between 2012 and 2016 — from 22,135 to 11,961.
However, SmartWitness believes there is still a huge cause for concern. Chief executive Paul Singh said: “Studies consistently show that using a mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as drink driving. Yet 7m drivers are consistently flouting the law and ignoring concerted efforts to clampdown on the problem.”
The most common reason given for using a mobile phone at the wheel was for incoming messages, with 21% of motorists admitting to doing that. One in seven drivers (14%) said they used handheld phone to call and answer in-coming calls.
The overwhelming majority of drivers breaking the law with phones (69%) only did it when they were stuck in traffic or moving slowly. Nearly all drivers (92%) ignore their phones when they are driving at speed.
Only 8% of drivers have a cradle in their cars so they can use their phones hands free and avoid breaking the law.
More than three-quarters of drivers (76%) were aware of the increased penalties and two-thirds of those surveyed (67%) said they would support a further increase in fines and penalty points to deter future abuses.
Singh said: “The way to tackle this abuse is to make using your phone at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink driving and we all have responsibility to hammer home this point.
“If you know of a driver using a phone or you are a passenger with someone who does this, tell them to stop.”