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One in five admit using their mobile phone when driving

mobile phone penalties, driving while using mobile phone, SmartWitness mobile phone survey.

A year after tough new penalties were introduced, research from SmartWitness suggests that a significant minority of drivers are still prepared to use their phone while driving.

The most common way drivers break the law, according to the survey of 2,000 motorists, is by checking their phones for incoming messages while driving – one in five (21%).

Meanwhile, one in seven drivers (14%) said they still spoke on the phone while at the wheel and answered in-coming calls.

More than two thirds (69%) of respondents who admitted using their phones said they only did it when they were stuck in traffic or moving slowly.

Nearly all drivers (92%) said they ignore their phone when they are driving at speed.

The Government doubled the penalty for drivers caught using their mobile phones at the wheel to six points and an on-the-spot-fine of £200, from March 1, last year. 

SmartWitness said the level of abuse has gone down since the new penalties were brought in, when one in four drivers said they were using their phones while driving.

Paul Singh, chief executive of vehicle CCTV specialist SmartWitness, said: “While it is welcome news that fewer drivers are using their phones behind the wheel, these figures are still a huge concern for everyone wanting to improve road safety.”

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 continued: “Studies consistently show that using a mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as drink driving. Yet 7 million drivers are consistently flouting the law and ignoring concerted efforts to clampdown on the problem.

“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.”

The SmartWitness survey results were revealed as new figures show that the number of people found guilty of using a mobile phone at the wheel has fallen.

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.

The drop pre-dates the new penalties and could be down to a fall in the number of traffic officers operating on the roads.

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