Nearly one in five motorists believe it is acceptable to use a handheld mobile phone while driving, despite the fact that it has been illegal since 2003. Even more – one in three – admit having used their phone while at the wheel. The findings coincide with news that 1 million drivers have now been fined for using a handheld phone when driving. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said that anyone caught committing the offence twice should be banned from driving.
The survey for insurer LV= was conducted by pollster ICM, which discovered that most of the motorists who confessed to using their phones while driving did so to answer a call or a text. Those were the features mobile phones had when the legislation banning handheld use at the wheel was first enacted.
Since then, of course, smartphones have taken the capabilities of mobiles to a new level as well as introducing a whole new range of distractions, and to an increasing number of motorists – more people now own a smartphone than a traditional mobile phone.
One in four of those who admitted illegal use of a handheld phone said they check emails, three in ten check directions and one in seven log onto social networking sites.
John O’Roarke, managing director of the insurance company formerly known as Liverpool Victoria, said: “It’s been nearly 10 years. It’s worrying that many drivers are still using devices at the wheel.”
The London Evening Standard, which reported the survey results, added that according to a Freedom of Information request, in London almost 200,000 motorists had been caught using a handheld mobile phone during the past decade.
Last year, 33,384 drivers in the capital were issued with fixed penalty notices for the offence – so far this year, as we head towards December, the number issued is just two thirds that level, at 21,931.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, meanwhile, says that instead of being fined £60 and given three points, motorists caught should instead be given six points on their licence, and that those caught twice within the space of three years should be banned from driving.
The latest figures follow a recent campaign in Wales that resulted in nearly 1,000 motorists in Wales being fined for using their phone illegally while driving.
In the Australian state of New South Wales, a law that took effect at the start of the month makes it illegal for motorists to even touch their phone while they are driving.
They can use it to make voice calls, use GPS or play music if it is secured in a cradle or if they can uoperate it via Bluetooth, for example.
According to Sky News Australia, a police statement said: "The new laws make it clear that a driver cannot hold a phone in his or her hand other than to pass it to a passenger.
"'Furthermore, under the new laws, drivers cannot rest mobile phones on their legs or hold it between their shoulder and ear."
Learner and newly qualified drivers are banned from using any feature of a phone while driving.
New South Wales highway patrol Assistant Commissioner John Hartley commented: "The penalty for illegally using a mobile phone while driving is three demerit points and a $298 fine,' he said in a statement.
"This is upgraded to four demerit points and a $397 fine if the offence occurs in a school zone."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.