Prosecutions for motorists using a mobile phone fall 47% in five years
According to official figures seen by the RAC, prosecutions were down by 47% between 2009 and 2014.
The fall is despite figures from the Department for Transport indicating a relatively unchanged percentage of car drivers using phones at the wheel. A study in 2014 found that 1.6% of all drivers in England – that is more than half a million people – were observed using a mobile phone, slightly up from 1.4% in 2009.
The findings fit in with research conducted for the RAC’s 2015 Report on Motoring, which found over a third of motorists (34%) rank the dangers of drivers using a phone to talk, text or use the internet as one of their top concerns – unchanged on 2014 figures.
In response, the RAC has highlighted the increasing lack of roads policing offers to enforce the legislation on using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel.
RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “There is still an enormous gulf between what the law states – that handheld mobile phones should not be used behind the wheel – and what motorists see happening on our roads. Drivers are routinely using their phones at red traffic lights, or even while on the move.
“We have already highlighted the large reductions in the numbers of full-time roads policing officers affecting many police forces. On average across the country there was a 23% cut between 2010 and 2014 – meaning there are 1,279 fewer officers patrolling our roads. Sadly, therefore, there are now far fewer police to enforce a law that is designed to protect all road users and pedestrians.
“With budgetary constraints, roads policing officer numbers are not going to dramatically increase in the near future, but we believe that now is time to halt the decline and stop further year-on-year cuts. We also look to the Government to propose other means of enforcing the existing law. Can technology play a greater role in helping catch offenders?
“Is there also a role for a national public awareness campaign on the dangers of using a phone at the wheel, similar to the hard-hitting campaigns which have helped stigmatise drink-driving?”
The Commons’ Transport Committee is due to hear evidence this month as part of an inquiry into the effectiveness of road traffic law enforcement – see www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news-parliament-2015/launch-road-traffic-law-enforcement-15-16/.