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Decline in drivers being punished for mobile phone use

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Fewer drivers were punished for using mobile phones last year in England and Wales, police figures suggest.

The number of drivers given penalty points for using a mobile device at the wheel fell by 24% in 2014 and by more than 40% from 2010-14.

The figures, which were obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request by BBC Radio 5 live show, showed that 72,753 fixed penalty notices (FPN) were given out in 2014.

Information was requested from the 43 police forces in England and Wales, plus British Transport Police - and 36 provided it.

In 2013, 95,941 FPNs were given out for mobile phone offences, while 122,752 were given out in 2010 by the same forces.

However, an earlier study from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed 1.1% of drivers in England and Scotland were observed holding a phone in their hand, with a further 0.5% observed holding the phone to their ear.

That equates to potentially more than 470,000 motorists and this survey also showed no improvement in those breaking the law since it was last repeated in 2009.

The IAM has long stated the reduction in visible policing meant drivers are flouting the law in larger numbers – and there is no reason to think the trend won’t get worse, it said.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “If 470,000 motorists are using mobile phones illegally and 72,000 tickets and 99,000 courses are being processed; it is a tiny and disappointing response.

“More worryingly neither approach seems to be having any effect on the numbers observed breaking the law.
“Most are still getting away with it. Until the fear of being caught increases we will continue to see drivers taking risks holding mobile devices while driving.”

One force, Staffordshire Police, issued just four fixed penalty notices for mobile phone use last year.

The force told the BBC it had developed its own programme to deal with motorists - a four-hour "crash course" run by police, fire and victim support officials.

By comparison, the Metropolitan Police issued the most FPNs - 22,729 - last year, while Thames Valley Police issued 10,579 - the second highest.

Drivers caught using mobile phones at the wheel can be given a fixed penalty notice - which means three penalty points and a £100 fine.


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  • Bianca Castafiore - 17/04/2015 11:35

    I live in Staffordshire, and it is sad to see that only 4 motorists were prosecuted for using a mobile phone. I would be interested to see how many motorists attended a course to avoid prosecution. Maybe it's higher - perhaps 5 or even 6! I find it incredible that more people are not prosecuted, and I'm sure many of us see people blatantly ignoring the law ever time we go out on the roads. If we can see them, why can't the police. I also feel that women are sometimes more inclined to flout the law, particularly when their hair covers the phone. I've followed women drivers who have been scratching their ear for miles!

  • bobcollins9742 - 17/04/2015 12:26

    I walk to work every day (approx. 2.5 miles each way) and I see at least 2 or 3 drivers with mobiles. The percentage is certainly higher than 1%; more likely to be 10%. The highest number observed was 20 and that was on the journey home; there will have been others who I was not sure using a mobile but looked suspicious. What was conspicuous by their absence was any form of police presence.

  • Bill Burnett - 17/04/2015 12:52

    Did the request for information ask for details of how many Motorists were summoned to Court and prosecuted or did it just deal with Fixed Penalty Notices that were issued. If the two figures are not viewed together we dont get a true picture of how the Offences are being dealt with. I would like to know how Staffordshire deal with People who fail to attend their courses. Do they then summons to Court in much the same way that Speeders are dealt with if they fail to turn up at their seminars? Please don't misunderstand me. I believe that this is a huge problem that needs dealing with rigourously. I am of the opinion that hands free should be banned also. Often accidents occur because of Drivers concentrating on what they are saying, not necessarily because they are handling a mobile telephone. I don't think anyone would disagree that when one drives one should concentrate. How did 'Roadcraft' define concentration ? The complete application of mind and body to a particular task. How can you be concentrating when you are discussing last months sale figures on hands free or who's turn it is to pick up children on the school run?

  • mgillson_bunkercard.co.uk - 17/04/2015 13:26

    Why not give people offenders the option of a reduced fine and make them fit an approved hands-free kit in their vehicle. I agree that it is an issue that is under punished and potentially more dangerous than speeding. Perhaps manufacturers could help by puttng a simply operated button on phones which gave a 'I can't answer your call because I'm driving' message instead of drivers' picking up, just to tell the caller that they can't talk because nthey're driving !

  • Honest John - 17/04/2015 15:11

    What is it with Staffordshire? Is there any concept of public service in that part of the country? NHS, Social Services and now police with appalling stats but no-one seems to care. Use of mobile phones is rife, I see it every single day, even among van and lorry drivers who are driving for a living, and should know better, especially as Hands free and Bluetooth is so simple and cheap to fit. This is a massive road safety risk and it's quite disgraceful that the authorities treat it so light lightly. I wonder why that might be?

  • Jill Wilson - 17/04/2015 16:39

    Can technology be used to issue FPN to drivers who are on the phone?

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