Tougher penalties for illegal mobile phone use behind the wheel undermined by lack of enforcement

News from Brake
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
news@brake.org.uk

Enforcement of new, tougher laws on illegal mobile phone use at the wheel stalled just one month after their introduction, according to figures obtained by Brake, the road safety charity.

From 1 March this year, penalties for drivers using a mobile handset were doubled to a £200 fine and six penalty points.

Freedom of Information figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), obtained by Brake, reveal that 10,428 drivers in England, Scotland and Wales received six penalty points for illegal mobile phone use in the four-month period between March and June 2017 [1]. Although 5,258 drivers received points in March 2017, during a nationwide police crackdown, the numbers receiving points for illegal phone use plummeted to 1,865 in April and just 1,387 in June.

Table: Number of 'CU80' endorsements with a six-point penalty imposed by month of offence (as at 26 August 2017)

March 2017

April 2017

May 2017

June 2017

Total

5,258

1,865

1,918

1,387

10,428

Source: DVLA. Note: The driving licence database changes constantly as the DVLA receives driving licence applications and other information that updates the records of individual drivers. Therefore, this data is a snapshot of the state of the record at the time of the request.

Most of the penalties in the four months to June were given to drivers from Greater London (2,186), followed by Essex (580), the West Midlands (372), Hampshire (348) and Kent (308) [2]. A total of 736 drivers in Scotland and 392 in Wales received six points for using handsets behind the wheel in the same period.

The toughening of the law in March also means that new drivers will lose their licence if caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel. Today's figures show that 104 new drivers in Britain lost their licence for the offence in March 2017, but this dropped to just 36 in April and 22 in June.

Table: Number of 'CU80' endorsements which resulted in the new driver being revoked under the New Drivers Act (NDA) by month of offence (as at 26 August 2017)

March 2017

April 2017

May 2017

June 2017

Total

104

36

32

22

194

Source: DVLA. Note: The driving licence database changes constantly as the DVLA receives driving licence applications and other information that updates the records of individual drivers. Therefore, this data is a snapshot of the state of the record at the time of the request.

The licences of 39 new drivers from Greater London, 12 from the West Midlands, ten from Essex and seven each from Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Shropshire, were revoked in the four-month period [3].

The figures come following recent Department for Transport data that shows that mobile phone use was a contributory factor in 478 collisions on British roads last year, an increase of over a quarter (26%) since 2012 [4].

Brake is calling for a renewed focus by police forces on enforcement of mobile phone laws − issuing points in particular − to reduce deadly crashes. The charity has also led a coalition of NGOs and organisations in urging the mobile phone industry to roll out 'opt-out' technology as standard, to automatically prevent distracting alerts when driving.

Commenting on today's figures, Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Illegal mobile phone use at the wheel is a growing menace to road safety. Given the scale of the problem, the fact that so few drivers have received points is deeply troubling. Tougher laws are a big step forwards, but they must be accompanied by rigorous enforcement if they are to work. It's essential that police forces send out a clear message that drivers who flout the law will be caught and punished.

"There has been an unacceptable rise in the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads and enforcement plays a crucial part in improving safety. The Government must treat road policing as a national priority and reverse savage cuts to road traffic officers.

"Research shows that using a phone behind the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a fatal crash. Brake urges motorists to put mobiles on silent and out of reach when in the car, to keep focused on the road. Mobile operators and manufacturers must also play their part by including 'opt-out' technology on handsets as standard, to reduce deadly distractions in the first place.”

/Ends

Notes to editors:

Please contact news@brake.org.uk for a full regional breakdown.

[1] The figures refer to "CU80" endorsements which are a "breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle, such as using a mobile phone". More information: https://www.gov.uk/penalty-points-endorsements/overview.

[2] Breakdown (by area) of drivers receiving six points for a CU80 offence (1 March to 30 June 2017) - top 5. Note: a total of 521 CU80 endorsements were issued in the period where the address of the driver was unknown. These are included in the total figures in the press release.

 

Area

March

April

May

June

Total

1

Greater London

1,336

330

343

177

2,186

2

Essex

225

98

134

123

580

3

West Midlands

176

86

62

48

372

4

Hampshire

195

48

61

44

348

5

Kent

157

58

59

34

308

[3] Breakdown (by area) of new drivers revoked under NDA on a CU80 offence (1 March to 30 June 2017) - top five

 

Area

March

April

May

June

Total

1

Greater London

29

4

6

-

39

2

West Midlands

4

2

3

3

12

3

Essex

5

2

2

1

10

=4

Greater Manchester

4

2

-

1

7

=4

Hampshire

5

2

-

-

7

=4

Shropshire

5

-

-

2

7

=5

Berkshire

1

2

1

2

6

=5

Surrey

5

1

-

-

6

[4] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2016, Department for Transport, 2017, Table RAS50001

The DVLA maintains a record of all GB fixed penalties and Court-ordered endorsements; the Agency has no responsibility or influence on Court-imposed sentences. The driving licence database changes constantly as the DVLA receives driving licence applications and other information that updates the records of individual drivers. Therefore, this data is a snapshot of the state of the record at the time of the request. There can be a delay between the notification of penalty points and of the sentence imposed by the Court.

The geographical breakdown of information is based on the postcode from the address of the driver currently held on record. Where, for example, a partial postcode is held, it has not been possible to determine a specific county and therefore this is recorded as ‘unknown’.

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.

We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

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