Not so smartphone: police crackdown on mobile use while driving

  • Government gets tough on mobile-wielding drivers
  • Week-long crackdown aims to catch and deter offenders
  • Motoring groups' surveys show scale of the problem
  • Government gets tough on mobile-wielding drivers
  • Week-long crackdown aims to catch and deter offenders
  • Motoring groups' surveys show scale of the problem

Police forces across the UK are currently engaged in a week-long crackdown on drivers using their mobile phones while driving. 

In an effort to curb a spate of high-profile court cases dealing with deaths or serious injuries occuring as a direct result of illegal mobile use while behind the wheel, measures such as unmarked vehicles, community spotters, helmet cameras and videoing from high vantage points will be introduced in an effort to catch as many offenders as possible. 

During a similar week-long crackdown in November 2016, police caught an average of 47 drivers per hour using their mobile while driving, with 36 forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland issuing a record total of 7,966 fixed penalty notices and 68 court summonses. 

Further penalties coming in March

Drivers caught using their handheld mobile phone while in control of their vehicle will face tougher fines, more points and a potential ban from driving under new government plans.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced last year that the new measures will come into effect in March to combat the recent spate of deaths and serious injuries arising as a direct result of the use of smartphones while driving.

Caught twice, lose your licence

The current penalty of a £100 fine and three points on your licence is set to be doubled to £200 and six points per infraction, which means your licence could be revoked with 12 points if you're caught twice.

New drivers - who only need to accrue six points for a ban in the first two years of holding a full licence - will face an instant ban if caught illegally using their smartphone. 

Car organisations call for change

A number of motoring groups have been lobbying for harsher action against offenders; an RAC survey found an estimated 11 million drivers admit to making or receiving a call while in control of a car in the past 12 months. Furthermore, five million said they have taken photos and videos behind the wheel.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “We hope we will see an immediate change in driver behaviour and an end to anyone using a handheld mobile phone while driving. It is time for a cultural shift to make the use of a handheld mobile phone as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.”

Williams is sceptical that the move will make much difference unless the issue is policed better, though: “It is just as important that laws are seen to be enforced, and the decline in the numbers of dedicated road traffic police has only heightened the feeling that those who use a handheld phone while driving simply get away with it."

Meanwhile, the AA has conducted its own research that shows 90 percent of its members support increased fine and penalty points for offenders. It also indicated that one in five see someone using a handheld mobile while driving on every journey.

AA President, Edmund King, said: “This is a behavioural issue and we need a radical campaign to end it.

“It is similar to dangerous habits diminished in the ‘70s and ‘80s with the concerted drink-driving and seatbelt campaigns. Only a shift in attitude, harsher penalties and better enforcement will improve matters.

“If drivers can’t hang up their phones, they should hang up their car keys.”

Sidebar Right