Are Tougher Penalties Working for Drivers using Mobile Phones?
There has been a 10% reduction in the number of motorists caught using their mobile phones at the wheel, but it might not be down to harsher penalties.
In March, new legislation was introduced to address the “epidemic” levels of people dangerously distracted from their phone calls by attempting to drive their vehicles at the same time.
The penalty was doubled to £200 and six penalty points, with new drivers facing an immediate ban if they are caught texting or phoning someone at the wheel. This is assuming the driver accepts a fixed penalty. If the matter is dealt with by a court, then penalty can be higher.
It has been illegal to use a mobile phone, held in the hand, while driving or while stopped with the engine on, since December 2003.
For the moment, it remains legal to use a hands-free phone while driving, but if the police suspect you are distracted then you can be stopped and are at risk of prosecution for failing to have proper control of a vehicle, or for careless or reckless driving.
According to the RAC, in the three months following the toughening up of the law, there were 1,700 fewer motorists caught offending.
The figures prompted the Daily Mail to take credit for making everyone safer after it launched a hastily cobbled together campaign on the issue.
But given that the newspaper does its level best to make readers feel like they are very unsafe, its apparent success must have come as a bit of a shock.
Reduction in Offences Detected
In total, 14,160 drivers were caught for the offence between March and May 2017, down from 15,861 between December and February.
It’s not a huge reduction when put into the context of the total numbers involved, and as the RAC says, it’s not even clear if stricter penalties are the reason for the change.
In fact, the motoring organisation points to the fact that the number of dedicated roads policing officers in the UK fell by more than a quarter between 2010 and 2015 as budgets were slashed, which suggests that these latest figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
It could be argued that the reduction in offenders is as a result of there being no police officers around to detect the offences.
Maybe there should be a national newspaper campaign about that.