North West roads top for mobile phone offenders
Date published: 27 February 2018
North West roads top for mobile phone offenders
Roads in the North West of England are plagued with distracted drivers, as new research reveals the region saw the highest number of mobile phone offences in 2017.
New figures obtained by Confused.com, the driver savings site, through Freedom of Information requests to four of the region’s police forces, revealed 5,796 drivers were issued FPNs for using their phone behind the wheel in 2017.
However, due to the punishment for the offence doubling to six points and a £200 fine in the March, this figure is in fact a 34% drop from the previous year (8,803, 2016).
Evidently, the harsher penalty seems to have done an effective job in scaring drivers into abiding by the rules. But this has also put more money into the pockets of the authorities, as £37,200 was paid in fines by offenders in 2017.
There are certain areas of the North West where drivers should be wary of other distracted motorists, as Cheshire ranked top in the region for the offence.
Cheshire Police issued 1,830 FPNs to drivers for using their mobile phone while on the road.
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%) drivers in the region 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. Worryingly, more than one in four (27%) do not know that entering a location in Google Maps, or tapping the phone screen (24%) while behind the wheel is illegal.
And more than one in seven (15%) do not 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.
Overall results across the UK reflect a very similar picture, with the number of offences dropping year-on-year. In 2017, the number of FPNs issued to drivers dropped to 30,470, from a whopping 49,694 in 2016 – a 39% drop in just 12 months.
The figures suggest the amount collected in fines has more than doubled (151%) in 2017. At least £1,207,300 was paid in fines by offenders in 2017(3), up from £481,500 in 2016, due to fines increasing to £200 from March, and police now declining to offer education courses.
And it isn’t just the fines that will be stinging motorists. With harsher punishments now seeing offenders served six points instead of three, new drivers will lose their licence the very first time they commit the offence.
In total, a whopping 157,847 points were dished out to offenders across the whole of the UK throughout last year, with 23,524 endorsements served for six points.
The research by Confused.com echoes the findings of the FOI investigation, with the punishment seeming to have changed North West drivers’ attitudes towards the offence. In fact, more than two thirds (69%) of drivers in the region say the harsher punishment has deterred them from using their mobile phone while driving, with more than a third (37%) 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 (41%) have read a text and a third (33%) admit they have answered a call using their handset. Worryingly, one in 20 (5%) have also used social media while behind the wheel.
There are also some drivers in the North West that think the law could be a little more relaxed and should only apply when the vehicle is moving (15%). In fact, one in seven (15%) say they think it should be legal to use a mobile phone while stuck in traffic, and one in eight (12%) say it should be allowed when stationary at traffic lights.
But what is certain is that the law has clearly made an impact on the region’s roads, and almost a quarter (24%) 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, said: “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 is 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 can damage their driving record and could bump up their car insurance premium.
And with the average cost of car insurance at £827, we’re sure drivers could do without anything which increases this cost.
Drivers looking to keep their car insurance costs down should shop around at Confused.com, where they could save up to £279 on their premiums.”