Tougher penalties for drivers using mobile phones 'won't change behaviour'


Most motorists do not believe plans to increase penalties for illegal mobile phone use while driving will change people's behaviour, a new study suggests.

The Government is set to publish the results of a consultation which proposed raising penalty points for non-HGV drivers from three to four and and fines from £100 to £150.

But a survey of 2,100 drivers for the RAC found that 69% do not think the changes would make any difference as a "substantial minority will still use their handheld phones while driving".

Asked generally whether penalties should be increased, 52% agreed.

A fifth (21%) of those people want both penalty points and fines raised, while 11% claim disqualification from driving is the answer.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: "There is a very strong feeling from law-abiding motorists that something needs to be done.

"But while people want the penalties for committing this offence to be beefed up there is also an acceptance that nothing is likely to change due primarily to a lack of enforcement."

Between 2010 and 2014 the number of roads police officers in England and Wales declined by 23%, according to the RAC, while the number of fixed penalty notices issued for illegal mobile use fell from 125,500 in 2009 to 52,400 in 2012.

Mr Williams said using a phone behind the wheel "is a recipe for disaster" and changing people's behaviour will only be achieved through a combination of measures.

He added: "We need more rigorous enforcement of the law, increased penalties that act as a meaningful deterrent and a high profile advertising campaign that makes motorists fully aware of the serious consequences of using a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle."

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: "We have some of the safest roads in Europe but we are cracking down on motorists who endanger lives by using handheld mobile phones while driving.

"We want to see this illegal and dangerous practice become a social taboo."

He added that the response to the consultation will be published "in due course".