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Motorists want camera-based technology to catch drivers using phones

Nearly eight in 10 (79%) motorists now want to see camera technology introduced to catch drivers illegally using phones behind the wheel.

The tool calculates a distracted driving score from 1-10 for the driver after each trip

More people say they are making and taking calls now than at any point since 2016

While some elements of phone use by drivers have declined, the problem “has far from disappeared” according to new RAC research; more people say they are making and taking calls now than at any point since 2016, just before tougher penalties were introduced.

But the RAC says camera-based enforcement could help cut down on the enormous police resources required to ‘catch drivers in the act’ and its research has found that not only do 79% of drivers support this but within this group, the vast majority (52%) are strongly in favour of it happening.

It would certainly help clamp down on increased phone usage; 29% of drivers of all ages in 2020 say they make and receive calls on handheld phones while driving, up 5% from last year and the highest proportion since 2016.

Camera-based enforcement could also help stamp out fast-rising use of video calling among young drivers. Figures for the RAC Report on Motoring 2020 reveal almost one in five (18%) of drivers aged 17-24 admitting to taking part in video calls while behind the wheel.

Also, younger drivers are more than twice as likely to say they make or receive video calls while driving – on average 8% of all UK drivers say they do this, with the figure rising to 13% among those aged 25 to 44.

Equally worrying, just under one in 10 drivers aged 17 to 24 (9%) say they play games on their phones while driving; three times more than the average UK driver.

In fact, other drivers’ use of handheld phones is the second biggest overall motoring-related concern identified in the 2020 RAC Report on Motoring research, after the state of local roads – a third of all UK drivers surveyed (32%) say mobile use concerns them.

More positively, ‘only’ 8% of all drivers say they text or send other messages while driving, down from 14% last year and from a high of 20% in 2016. But this could be down to lower overall car use this year as a result of the pandemic.

RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said: “It’s significant that motorists are united in their desire to see camera-based technology, like that already in use in other countries, introduced on our roads to catch drivers who risk everyone’s safety by breaking the law in this way. If the behaviour of those who continue to think it’s safe to use a handheld phone while driving upwards of a tonne of metal is ever going to change, they need to believe there’s a reasonable chance of being caught.”

Road safety charity Brake has also expressed concerns on the findings. It’s calling for a complete ban on the use of a phone when driving, including hands-free, echoing comments from MPs a year ago.

The Transport Committee’s ‘Report on Road Safety: Driving while using a mobile phone’, which was published in August 2019, has said the Government should look at introducing tougher penalties for all mobile phone usage behind the wheel – including banning hands-free devices, starting first with public sector drivers.

On the back of the new RAC research, Brake is urging the Government to provide clarity in the law before more lives are lost.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns, said: “The Government must implement a full ban on phone use when driving, including hands-free, to make the dangers crystal clear to the public and to crack-down on this reckless behaviour. The police must also be provided with the right tools and investment to enforce the roads effectively.

“In the wrong hands, a car is a lethal weapon and even a moment’s distraction from the road can have catastrophic consequences. More than 75 people are killed on UK roads every day and with driver distraction levels seemingly on the rise, the Government must step in and act, now.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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