Mobile laws not being enforced

Enforcement of new, tougher laws on illegal mobile phone use at the wheel stalled just one month after their introduction, according to figures obtained by Brake, the road safety charity.

From 1 March this year, penalties for drivers using a mobile handset were doubled to a £200 fine and six penalty points.

Freedom of Information figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), obtained by Brake, reveal that 10,428 drivers in England, Scotland and Wales received six penalty points for illegal mobile phone use in the four-month period between March and June 2017.

But while 5,258 drivers received points in March, during a nationwide police crackdown, the numbers receiving points for illegal phone use plummeted to 1,865 in April and just 1,387 in June.

Most of the penalties in the four months to June were given to drivers from Greater London (2,186), followed by Essex (580), the West Midlands (372), Hampshire (348) and Kent (308). A total of 736 drivers in Scotland and 392 in Wales received six points for using handsets behind the wheel in the same period.

The toughening of the law in March also means that new drivers will lose their licence if caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel. Today’s figures show that 104 new drivers in Britain lost their licence for the offence in March 2017, but this dropped to just 36 in April and 22 in June.

Brake is calling for a renewed focus by police forces on enforcement of mobile phone laws − issuing points in particular − to reduce deadly crashes.

Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said, ‘Illegal mobile phone use at the wheel is a growing menace to road safety. Given the scale of the problem, the fact that so few drivers have received points is deeply troubling. Tougher laws are a big step forwards, but they must be accompanied by rigorous enforcement if they are to work. It’s essential that police forces send out a clear message that drivers who flout the law will be caught and punished.

‘There has been an unacceptable rise in the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads and enforcement plays a crucial part in improving safety. The government must treat road policing as a national priority and reverse savage cuts to road traffic officers.

‘Research shows that using a phone behind the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a fatal crash. Brake urges motorists to put mobiles on silent and out of reach when in the car, to keep focused on the road. Mobile operators and manufacturers must also play their part by including ‘opt-out’ technology on handsets as standard, to reduce deadly distractions in the first place.’