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Penalties for mobile phone use on the decline

  • Mobile phone fixed penalty notice hand-outs fall 24 percent in 2014
  • First-time offenders can be offered the chance to attend a road safety course
  • Others believe the fall is related to the reduction in police presence

The number of drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving fell by 24 percent last year. According to figures from a Freedom of Information Act request by BBC Radio 5 live show, the results from 36 police forces in England and Wales (43 were approached for the information) show that 72,753 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) were given out in 2014 - a fall of more than 40 percent from 2010-14

In 2013, 95,941 FPNs were given out for mobile phone offences, while 122,752 were given out in 2010 by the same forces.

According to the data, the Metropolitan Police issued the most FPNs - 22,729 - last year, while Thames Valley Police issued 10,579 - the second highest.

And one force, Staffordshire Police, issued just four fixed penalty notices for mobile phone use last year.

However, an earlier study by the Department of Transport showed 1.1 percent of drivers in England and Scotland were observed holding a phone in their hand with a further 0.5 percent observed holding the phone to their ear. This equates to potentially more than 470,000 motorists, indicating no improvement in those breaking the law since it was last carried out in 2009.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) believes the reduction in FPNs is directly related to the reduction in visible policing.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “If 470,000 motorists are using mobile phones illegally and 72,000 tickets and 99,000 courses are being processed; it is a tiny and disappointing response. More worryingly neither approach seems to be having any effect on the numbers observed breaking the law.

“Most are still getting away with it. Until the fear of being caught increases we will continue to see drivers taking risks holding mobile devices while driving.”

Drivers caught using mobile phones at the wheel can be given a fixed penalty notice - which means three penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine, although first-time offenders can be offered the chance to attend a road safety course instead, similar to those devised to deter speeding.