The number of drivers using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel is rising, according to a new report.
In its annual Report on Motoring, released today, the RAC found that the number of people admitting to using a phone while driving has risen from 8% in 2014 to 31%. The report also found an increase in texting, emailing and social media use while in the driver’s seat, up from 9% in 2014 to 19% today. A further 14% of those surveyed admitted taking photos or videoing while driving.
The RAC has called on the Government to launch an awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of using a handheld mobile while driving, as well as issuing tougher penalties for those flouting the law. Currently, those caught face a minimum £100 fine and three points on their licence, although this is set to increase to a minimum £150 fine and four penalty points, six for HGV drivers.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said the organisation believes better enforcement is needed, and called for more police on the roads.
“It is alarming to see that some drivers have clearly relaxed their attitudes to the risks associated with this behaviour, but more worrying is the increase in the percentage of motorists who actually admit to using a handheld device when driving.
“With compliance on some traffic laws including the use of handheld mobile phones seemingly getting worse, the RAC calls for an end to cuts to dedicated roads policing and urges the Government and Chief Constables to give greater priority to enforcement of road traffic laws,” he said.
The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) said the report highlighted the role police forces have in educating drivers and taking action against those who commit such offences. NPCC lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said: “We share the RAC’s concerns about the level of mobile phone use by drivers, particularly as phones are becoming 'smarter'. Our approach is a blend of education and enforcement.
“We run national operations and forces take action locally. We will continue to stress the dangerous consequences, and arrest offenders, but we also need people to take responsibility for their behaviour behind the wheel and exert some social pressure on family and friends who take this risk.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world and it is totally unacceptable for motorists to endanger lives by using handheld mobile phones while driving.
“Offenders involved in fatal road accidents while using a mobile phone already face serious offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry a substantial prison term. We have also proposed tougher penalties for mobile phone use to act as a deterrent and ensure it is not tolerated in society.”