EXCLUSIVE: FIFTY drivers A DAY are being caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel despite tougher penalties brought in this year
- More than 50 drivers a day are still being caught using their mobiles at the wheel
- Home Office data shows ten per cent rise in fines in England and Wales last year
- 19,655 fixed penalty notices were issued last year compared with 17,873 in 2020
- The spike in offending comes despite a recent introduction of tougher penalties
More than 50 drivers a day are still being caught using their mobiles at the wheel – putting lives at risk.
The number of motorists captured by police has doubled in some areas despite the recent introduction of tougher penalties.
Official figures released by the Home Office show the number of fines issued for using a hand-held device has gone up by 10 per cent across England and Wales in a year.
The statistics show 53 motorists are being caught a day, with 19,655 handed fixed penalty notices last year compared with 17,873 in 2020.
More than 50 drivers a day are still being caught using their mobiles at the wheel – putting lives at risk, Home Office data reveals
A van driver who tried to blame his 18-month-old toddler after killing a cyclist while on the phone was jailed for five years.
Simon Draper was looking at Facebook and Instagram on his mobile moments before ploughing into off-duty police sergeant Lynwen Thomas as she cycled home in Carmarthen, south-west Wales, last February.
Looking at Facebook: Simon Draper
The 42-year-old insisted it was his 13-month-old son who had been on his phone, but he failed to convince jurors at Swansea Crown Court who convicted him of death by dangerous driving in November.
But road safety campaigners fear the figures could be the tip of the iceberg because police had fewer opportunities during the pandemic to catch drivers calling, texting or scrolling at the wheel due to the lockdowns which saw traffic plunge to 50 per cent of normal levels.
In some force areas, there was a dramatic rise in drivers being caught in the year to December 31, 2021, the latest figures available.
Cheshire Police recorded a doubling in penalties from 516 in 2020 to 1,031 drivers penalised last year.
Derbyshire Police also doubled the number of fines handed out from 57 in 2020 to 114 last year.
Scotland Yard caught the largest number of drivers, with 4,196 fined for using their mobiles last year, an 18 per cent rise on the previous year.
More than 1,000 fines were also handed out by officers in West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
Hand-held hazard: Drivers face a £200 fine and six points on their licence
But analysis of the figures by the AA also suggest that enforcement is not a priority in some forces.
Suffolk Police has handed out a total of only 22 penalties in the last three years, with officers stopping only six drivers on their phones in 2021.
The Daily Mail’s End The Mobile Madness campaign succeeded in tougher penalties for drivers who recklessly put the lives of others at risk by using their phones.
Following a change in the law in March, motorists can be stopped if they use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel for any use, not just for telephoning someone.
This includes taking photos or videos, scrolling through music playlists, using sat nav, streaming services or playing games.
Drivers face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.
Since 2003 it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving in Britain, but the law was tightened after many motorists avoided prosecution by arguing they were not using it for ‘interactive communication’.
Despite this, thousands of drivers still continue to flout the ban including prominent figures.
Last month Security Minister Tom Tugendhat MP was handed a six-month driving ban after being caught using his phone.
Now MPs and road safety campaigners are calling for greater police enforcement, saying abuse is still ‘rampant’ on the roads.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: ‘These figures are deeply worrying. Drivers are clearly not getting the message. It suggests the number of accidents will also be going up.
‘The issue is people don’t think they will be caught if there isn’t a visible policing presence on the roads.
‘But officers up and down the country are too tied up in bureaucracy and paperwork rather than getting out there on the streets.
TWO-WEEK-OLD BABY DIED IN HIT-AND-RUN MOBILE CRASH
James Davis, 36, killed a two-week-old baby after driving at 67mph in a 30mph zone and crashing into a pram
A hit-and-run driver was jailed for killing a two-week-old baby after crashing into a pram while he was on the phone.
James Davis, 36, was driving an unregistered BMW when he hit a car and mounted the pavement, killing Ciaran Leigh Morris on Easter Sunday last year.
Davis, who had an appalling record of driving offences, fled the scene in Brownhills, near Walsall, leaving the baby dying and his mother with a broken collar bone.
He was sentenced to six and a half years at Wolverhampton Crown Court in April for causing death by dangerous driving while uninsured, but this was increased to ten years after appeal.
‘These figures show increasing the penalty is not enough, we must see more visible policing as a deterrent.’
According to the road safety campaign Think, drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash if they are using a phone.
Reaction times are two times slower if you text and drive using a hands-free phone than if you drink drive, and this increases to three times if you are holding the device.
In 2020, 17 people were killed on Britain’s roads in crashes involving drivers distracted by mobile phones.
A further 114 people were seriously hurt and 385 were slightly injured, Department for Transport figures show.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, who analysed the figures, said yesterday: ‘Although fines for mobile phone use while driving continue their painfully slow decline, latest statistics from the Home Office show that abuse last year was still rampant.
‘It is likely that illegal mobile phone use was worse than the figures suggest as the police were often tied up enforcing the lockdown – and many drivers probably thought they could get away with the offence because they expected to see fewer cops out on the road.
‘Figures for 2022 could be a watershed moment for showing how well the message not to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving is being respected by drivers.
‘The law surrounding mobile phone use while driving has evolved to meaning just holding a device is enough to be penalised.’
Distraction: Drivers are four times as likely to be in a crash if they are using a phone, research shows
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, chief constable Jo Shiner, said: ‘We remain committed to reducing the harm caused by distracted driving. Through the NPCC strategy Policing our Roads Together we co-ordinate a national campaign each year to remind drivers of both the penalties for and the consequences of, using their mobile phone illegally.
‘However, police officers take robust action to prosecute offenders every day and will continue to do so.
‘Personal responsibility is the starting point for safer roads. Abiding by the laws of the road, which are designed first and foremost to protect life, reduces the chances of being killed or seriously injured in a collision or causing a fatal or serious collision.
‘Mobile phones have many more and more distracting features, it’s illegal to hold and use a phone while driving or riding a motorcycle. This means you must not use a device in your hand for any reason, whether online or offline. The penalty for this can be you losing your licence.
‘Our message remains simple, a moment’s distraction can change innocent lives forever, don’t take the risk.’
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