1 million motorists fined for using mobile phone - but a third of drivers still admit to doing it

Metropolitan Police Commissioner says getting caught twice should lead to loss of licence

by Simon_MacMichael   November 22, 2012  

driving using mobile phone

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."




15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Possible source of funding for the new Police Commissioners?


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1108 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 9:26


Good for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, it would be a step in the right direction.


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [734 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 10:01


totally agree, twice and its a ban. Most drivers dont even tell their insurance companies about it.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3237 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 10:08


It's a step but it still basically says "you've done it once, naughty boy/girl, we'll let you get away with it this time but don't do it again, alright?"

Just as £60 isn't a deterrent in the slightest, nor is six points. Fines make no sense as they're generally highly affordable (which is why many people view them as "a tax" rather than a punitive measure) and the points system is utterly stupid as it has no teeth until you score 9.

For driving offences like this - the sort that are apparently minor but could so easily be major in the wrong place at the wrong time - I say why not impose a week's ban, with the licence and insurance papers handed in to the station for that week. It's a fairly mild sentence but it actually causes some inconvenience to the driver.

Yet just as no-one has the political balls to increase taxation on vehicles, I guess no-one has the political balls to actually punish drivers for abusing their god-given right to drive around devoid of any sense of responsibility.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [538 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 10:14


Using a phone while driving should have the same sentence as for drink driving - with a 12 month ban. The risks are the same, so why isn't the sentence?


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 10:24


Where does the law stand on if you're just using the phone as Sat Nav and it's in a cradle?

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [237 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 10:55


OldRidgeback wrote:
Using a phone while driving should have the same sentence as for drink driving - with a 12 month ban. The risks are the same, so why isn't the sentence?

There was a study that showed reaction times were 35% slower when texting compared to 12% slower when at the legal limit of alcohol permitted to drive.

It should be that mobile usage whilst driving is an automatic (potential) jail sentence, or instant loss of license with car impounded.

It wont happen through because as Bez said, it would interfere with their god given right to driving, and to have the most up to date iphone possible.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [726 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 12:10


you'll hear nothing from the Police Commissioners on this.
because they are voted in it'll take a very brave man to do something to upset 3rd rail of politics...the motorist!!
the fact it will save lives has nothing to do with it Sad

posted by mrchrispy [414 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 12:43


While I guess it's good that another potentially dangerous behaviour is being recast from something we all do to something unacceptable (cf. drink driving in the 80s), it still seems to avoid tackling the main issue here, which is that cars are actually pretty dangerous, yet they're treated as something that's benign.

If these tougher guidelines go into effect, the sentence for being caught using a phone while driving twice will be a little less than the sentence for killing a cyclist (see Martin Porter's table of sentences for causing cyclist death by dangerous or careless driving). In 10 years' time, it may have become socially unacceptable to use a phone while driving, but still be socially acceptable to kill someone while driving. That's not really where we want to be.

We really need to move towards a place where cars are treated more like knives or guns or explosives: these all have substantial utility and benefits, and it is perfectly fine to use them, but we do it in the right ways and in the right places (and within the right infrastructure), taking care to use them safely.

The message driving promotes should not be freedom, but responsibility.

Can't see that going down too well with the ad copywriters though...

posted by meloncholy [3 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 16:20


In other news, just another vulnerable road user...

Surely, the sentencing tariffs on motoring offences with serious consequences have got to change?


Joselito's picture

posted by Joselito [167 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 16:59


Drivers caught using a phone should be turfed out of their vehicles just the same as drunk drivers..........and then their chariots should be taken away and deposited in a crusher. Let's see how many still choose to use a phone while at the wheel when faced with that sanction.


Oh, slight fly in ointment: Will we ever get a government capable of growing balls and standing up to motorists?

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [98 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 20:04


The key is EDUCATION. People used to think drinking actually made them a better driver!
Only after a prolonged spell of advertising and education to the dangers of drink driving did it become socially unacceptable.

HMG needs to do a similar thing with mobile phone driving. They need to PROVE to people that it's dangerous.


posted by davebinks [136 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 20:20


"(see Martin Porter's table of sentences for causing cyclist death by dangerous or careless driving)"

Do you have a link to that? I'm having trouble googling it. It it on his blog somewhere?

posted by matthewuniverse [17 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 20:42


While we're at it, what about the people I see on their bikes when I'm cycling, using their mobiles? Confused

Utility Cyclist

posted by utility_cyclist [17 posts]
23rd November 2012 - 23:39


slap them. but they are most unlikely to kill the hundreds that operators of heavyweight machinery do.

posted by matthewuniverse [17 posts]
24th November 2012 - 1:42