Skip to content

Convictions For Mobile Phone Use While Driving Plummet

Motoring organisations have expressed their disappointment at new Home Office figures, which show that the number of drivers being caught using their mobile phone while at the wheel is falling sharply.

Motoring organisations have expressed their disappointment at new Home Office figures, which show that the number of drivers being caught using their mobile phone while at the wheel is falling sharply. 
The figures show that the number of phone-related convictions have fallen to their lowest level for nine years. These findings confirm drivers' suspicions as highlighted by the RAC's Report on Motoring. This report asked drivers for their opinions on the likelihood of being caught while calling or texting on a mobile phone while driving. More than 50% of respondents thought that such offenders would get away with the offence. Only 18% thought that they would get caught and the remainder were unsure of the outcome. 
The latest available figures from the Home Office are for 2012 and show that the total number of penalty notices in England and Wales for improper mobile phone use was 92,700. This was down by 25% on the 2011 figure and was the lowest recorded figure since 2005. By way of contrast, the conviction figure for 2006 was 166,800. 
Respondents to the RAC survey pointed to the lack of effective road policing as being the reason behind the falling conviction rates. Police forces appear to be ever more reliant on cameras, rather than having sufficient numbers of patrol cars on the road. Some 60% of respondents to the RAC survey said that there were not enough police patrols on the UK's roads to properly police the rules on mobile phone use. 
David Bizley, the RAC's technical director, commented on the findings, saying: "Motorists are tired of constantly seeing other drivers breaking the law and getting away with it so it is hardly surprising that they want to see a greater police presence on our roads to enforce motoring legislation more effectively."
According to figures compiled by Brake, a road safety charity, the number of traffic police in the UK has dropped by 12% in the last five years. Although this was an average figure, some forces suffered much more severe cuts, with Bedfordshire seeing a 44% drop in traffic police patrols. 
The increasing dependence of the police on cameras is reflected in data that shows that 84% of all traffic light and speeding offences are captured on camera. For these offences, the number of convictions has remained steady, showing only a 1% drop. 
London Metropolitan police come top of the charts for issuing tickets for mobile phone infringements, totalling more than 20,000 in 2012. Greater Manchester was next at 6,000. The standard offender gets a fine and three penalty points, which remain on their licence for four years. 
There is no evidence that the reducing number of mobile phone convictions is due to a reduction in this type of behaviour. In fact, the evidence points to the reverse being true. In a study by Brake, more than 50% of respondents admitted using a mobile phone while driving, while the RAC's own figures reveal that 75% of members see this behaviour on the road. 
Simon Williams from the RAC confirmed: "These figures from police forces imply that fewer motorists are using hand-held phones at the wheel which goes against our research which found three quarters (75%) of drivers regularly see other people doing this. We worry the reason for the lower number of fixed penalty notices might be due to the reduction in traffic police numbers rather than more motorists sticking to the letter of law."
The reliance on cameras to enforce traffic regulations is further illustrated by the announcement that speed cameras are to be installed across the UK's motorway network for the first time, in order to catch drivers who exceed the national 70mph speed limit. The Highways Agency is planning the installation of 'stealth' speed cameras on hundreds of miles of the busiest motorway stretches. 
These cameras will be grey, rather than the current high-visibility yellow, and motoring organisations say that this suggests that the cameras are more concerned with revenue raising, rather than controlling speed. Alliance of British Drivers spokesman, Roger Lawson, argued: "If these cameras are grey rather than yellow they are going to be harder to spot and so will have no impact in slowing traffic down. If there is a good reason for the traffic to be slowed down then the cameras need to be as visible as possible."

Posted by on

Back to June 2014

Back to top