Figures show drivers in East Midlands abiding by new laws

The latest local news.
The latest local news.

Harsher punishments for using a mobile phone behind the wheel seems to have scared drivers in the East Midlands into abiding by the rules, as the number of offenders on the region’s roads has dropped 38 per cent in 2017.

The research by Confused.com found that more than 1,100 drivers in the region were issued fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for using their phone behind the wheel, down from 1,807 in 2016.

In total, 30,4700 FPN were issued to drivers in the UK for using their mobile phone behind the wheel in 2017 compared to 49,694 in 2016 - a 39 per cent drop.

But while the law has had the desired effect of reducing the number of people using their phones behind the wheel, it has also led authorities to pocket more money.

The figures suggest the total amount collected in fines across the UK has more than doubled (151 per cent) in 2017.

At least £1,207,300 was paid in fines by offenders in 2017, up from £481,500 in 2016, due to fines increasing to £200 from March, and police now declining to offer education courses.

And with the profit made from these fines increasing, UK roads will benefit from a bit of extra spending.

Although it isn’t just the fines that will be stinging motorists. With the punishment now seeing offenders served six points instead of three, new drivers will lose their licence.

In total, a whopping 157,847 points were dished out to offenders throughout last year, with 23,524 endorsements served for six points.

Further research by Confused.com suggests there are still some grey areas around mobile phones and the law, with more than one in 10 (11 per cent) UK drivers saying they think the law is unclear.

To educate drivers on when they can and can’t touch their phone while behind the wheel, Confused.com has partnered with Inspector Rob Gwynne-Thomas to create an FAQ guide to clear up any confusion on the law.

Currently, the law states that holding or touching a mobile phone at any point while driving is an offence, including while stationary, unless it is an emergency.

But worryingly, more than one in four (27 per cent) don’t know that entering a location in Google Maps, or tapping the phone screen (26 per cent) while behind the wheel is illegal.

And more than one in six (17 per cent) don’t think making or answering a non-emergency call via the phone handset is illegal.

However, all of these would count as an offence, unless the car is safely parked.

The research by Confused.com echoes the findings of the investigation, with the punishment seeming to have changed drivers’ attitudes towards the offence. In fact, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of UK drivers say the harsher punishment has deterred them from using their mobile phone while driving, with more than a third (34 per cent) saying they have stopped completely.

It is a good thing the punishment for the offence has been tightened, as there are many drivers out there who have admitted to breaking the law at some point.

In fact, four in 10 (40 per cent) have read a text and more than a quarter (35 per cent) admit they have answered a call using their handset.

Worryingly, one in 15 (7 per cent) have also used social media while behind the wheel.

But there are also some drivers that think the law could be a little more relaxed and should only apply when the vehicle is moving (12 per cent).

In fact, one in seven (14 per cent) say they think it should be legal to use a mobile phone while stuck in traffic, and one in 10 (11 per cent) say it should be allowed when stationary at traffic lights.

But what is certain is that the law has clearly made an impact on UK roads, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) of drivers have found there is more of a stigma of using a mobile phone while driving since the introduction of the new punishment.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “Since the penalties for using a mobile phone behind the wheel have gone up, it’s encouraging to see it has had the desired effect by reducing the number of motorists committing the offence.

“What’s worrying is so many drivers are still in the dark about what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving.

“We’ve set out to clear up where drivers’ stand in relation to the law with the help of the UK traffic police and our FAQ guide.

“Using a mobile phone while driving can have serious consequences, and drivers may forget that being caught committing the offence could damage your driving record and bump up their car insurance premium.

“And with the car insurance coming to £827 on average, we’re sure drivers could do without anything which increases this cost

• Click here for more on mobile phones, driving and the law.