Higher fines could be changing driver behaviour
Changes to speeding and mobile phone penalties could be having the desired effect on driver behaviour, new research by Warranty Direct suggests.
In March 2017, the fixed penalty for being caught using a handheld phone in the car doubled to six penalty points and a £200 fine as the Government looked to cracked down on an ‘epidemic’ of handheld phone use. This was followed in April 2017 by the introduction of a new penalty structure for speeding motorists in England and Wales, which means the most serious offenders can now be fined up to 150% of their weekly income.
Warranty Direct analysis of Ministry of Justice data over the last five suggests both changes are having an effect. The data, covering the May to December period, shows the number of speeding fines issued annually between 2013 and the end of 2016 increased 47%, rising steadily (or remaining the same) year on year. After the new fines were introduced, not only did the number of fines stop increasing, but they even dropped by 8%.
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Fines for using a mobile phone while driving decreased even more dramatically. The number of fines issued dropped 44% for the March to December period in 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, and by 59% compared to five years prior in 2013.
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Simon Ackers, CEO of Warranty Direct, said that increased efforts by motoring authorities to raise awareness of the dangers of unsafe driving could also be having an effect.
However, the fall in the number of fines could also be the result of a reduced police presence. A Freedom of Information request carried out by the Press Association last year found the number of traffic officers had fallen by a third in 10 years from 3,766 in 2007 to 2,643 in 2017.
A study published by the AA at the start of 2018 suggested that drivers now think they can get away with offences as a result of the sharp decline in the number of traffic officers, including the 54% who said they believed they would escape prosecution if they used a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel.