UK motorists still using cell phones while driving despite increased penalties

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The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has reported that more than 26,000 motorists have been caught using a cell phone while driving in the first year since harsher penalties came into force.

The government doubled the penalties for cell phone use behind the wheel last year, with fines increasing from £100 (US£138) and three penalty points on the driver’s license, to £200 (US$276) and six points on March 1.

Statistics for the first year of the increased penalties also included 500 novice drivers who have had their licenses revoked for using a phone behind the wheel in their first two years of driving. To coincide with the first anniversary of the new penalties, the DfT’s THINK! Road safety campaign is highlighting the chances of being caught in a series of adverts, which will appear on radio, social media, on demand video, and in shopping centers, as part of its ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

After last March’s THINK! campaign, nine in 10 people were aware of the new penalties. The adverts were seen by around 29 million people and social media content was seen by a further 12 million people. Last October’s ‘Pink Kitten’ video, which highlighted how much drivers miss if they glance at their phone while driving, reached an audience of about 21 million people. Despite the increased awareness of the issue, a further 1,997 motorists were handed fines as part of a national crackdown by traffic officers between January 22 and 28 this year, which was managed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Of those caught, 74% were male.

“The penalties for holding and using a mobile phone while driving have proven to be a strong deterrent, and more and more people are aware of just how dangerous this is,” noted UK Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman. “But some motorists are still not only putting their own lives at risk, but the lives of others. Everyone has a role to play to encourage drivers to put their phone away and not use it while at the wheel.”

National lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, commented, “In the year since the new legislation was introduced, we have started to see changes in driver behavior as the public begin to understand the impact that driving while using a mobile phone can have. However, there are still far too many people underestimating the risk that they take when using their phone at the wheel.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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