The number of fines issued for drivers caught using a mobile phone at the wheel has plummeted by 86 per cent in the last five years. Figures from the Home Office show just 16,900 motorists in England and Wales were handed a fixed penalty notice for using a mobile phone behind the wheel last year, compared with 123,000 in 2011.
The news comes just a few months after the UK Government announced it would up the penalties for drivers using mobile phones. From 2017 offenders will be hit with a £200 fine and six penalty points, as opposed to the current £100, three penalty-point fine.
The drop in fines comes in the wake of a recent report by breakdown provider RAC, which found a record number of drivers admit to using a mobile phone while driving. An estimated 11 million motorists have admitted to making or receiving a call in last five months while driving, and a further five million admit to taking photos or videos at the wheel. The report also found motorists’ attitudes to mobile phone use have relaxed over the years, with those who say it is acceptable doubling from seven per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent today.
The drop in fines issued could partially be down to fewer police on the roads. Previous research by Auto Express found the number of full-time traffic police operating in England and Wales has fallen by nearly a third since 2010 due to budget cuts. Patrol numbers fell from 5,327 to 3,742 between 2010 and 2015, with 36 of the 42 forces recording fewer staff.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “The number of fixed penalty notices issued by police forces in England and Wales for illegal handheld phone use at the wheel has, frankly, fallen off a cliff. In 2011, 123,100 notices were given; last year the figure dropped to just 16,900, a staggering 86% fall over five years. Between 2014 and 2015, 43% fewer notices were issued for the offence.
“The figures lay bare the scale of the handheld mobile phone epidemic that has been allowed to sweep across the country largely unchallenged. The simple truth is the problem of illegal handheld phone use at the wheel is undeniably getting worse, with fewer and fewer people being caught.”
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This article was written by Martin Saarinen from Auto Express and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.