Police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are in the midst of their latest clampdown on illegal mobile phone use, but many think this approach isn’t enough
New research reveals two-thirds of drivers believe the introduction of technology to disable certain phone functions – backed by Government legislation – will curb the illegal use of mobiles behind the wheel.
As people’s reliance on smart technology grows, many people admit they can’t help themselves when it comes to checking their phone.
According to the study of 1,000 drivers, for Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero, nearly half (46 per cent) of motorists think it is okay to check their phone when stopped or in slow moving traffic. They do not fear being caught and admit they struggle to be digitally disconnected.
The previous week-long police clampdown in November 2016 caught nearly 8,000 drivers, an example of the dramatic increase in prosecutions when resources allow the police to enforce dedicated operations.
However, as Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero found 11.3 million UK motorists regularly use a mobile phone illegally, many think more should be done.
Some 45 per cent of people struggle to be without their smartphone and more than one in four feel it is now normal to check their phone when in traffic – prompting the wish for people to be saved from themselves with a blanket ban via some sort of blocking device.
Continental Tyres’ safety expert, Mark Griffiths, said: “Our research identifies that people know what they do is illegal, distracting, and dangerous, yet they cannot help themselves.
“With such ingrained behaviours and even with the penalties due to be doubled it has to be questioned whether the current approach is enough.
“Advances in technology from automotive businesses like ours have made dramatic advances in road safety. The current endemic use of mobiles illegally threatens to erode, even reverse progress.
“It is interesting that motorists think the solution lies with compulsory in-car technology to disable certain phone functions, such as texting, making calls or using social media, to prevent them from putting their selves at risk. It’s likely there is value in this view.”
In the first half of 2017, the penalty for using a mobile phone illegally will increase to a £200 fine and six penalty points – double the current punishment.
One in three drivers think the problem is getting worse and another 26 per cent think advances in road safety through new technology is being cancelled by our inability to keep our phones out of reach.
Mr Griffiths added: “When motorists want an enforced solution rather than manage their own behaviour it points to a serious issue.
“It is imperative we find a way to tackle this. Distracted drivers create a ‘switch cost’, the critical time it takes us to shift from something like reading a text to again being fully engaged in driving. In that brief period we are a clear risk to ourselves and all others around us.”