Drivers still unaware of new phone-use penalties

Almost two-thirds of drivers still do not know the consequences of breaking laws banning phone use at the wheel.

Jun 25, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

Just 36 per cent of UK motorists polled by the RAC could correctly name the current penalties for using a handheld phone while driving.

More than a quarter were unaware that punishments doubled in March last year, while 31 per cent believe the new sanctions are still not enough to change driver behaviour.

The RAC is now calling for more to be done to address the “genuine addiction” it claims many drivers have to their mobile devices.

Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, national 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.”

A law change introduced in March 2017 means anyone caught using their phone while driving can be punished with six penalty points and a £200 fine.

The RAC research found 31 per cent of drivers claimed to have stopped using phones at the wheel with 12 per cent prompted to do so after the harsher punishments were first announced in September 2016.

Almost half said their decision had been influenced by road safety campaigns and 36 per cent were afraid of getting caught.

However, nearly four in five drivers who still use mobiles admitted do so despite being concerned they could be spotted by a police officer.

One in ten believes the road safety risks of driving distracted have been “overstated”.

RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams said: “Picking up and using a handheld phone while driving is a personal choice that motorists make, albeit a dangerous and illegal one.

“While it is reassuring that a good number of motorists have decided to make a positive choice and stop doing it, there is still much more to be done to make everyone else change their behaviour.”

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