The number of drivers receiving penalty points for using their mobile phones whilst driving or at the wheel fell in the last year across England and Wales, according to police figures. The number being penalised fell by 24% according to figures collated for 36 forces across the two countries and in fact, the number of drivers receiving fixed penalty notices also fell by over 40% from 2010 to 2014.
The lead office for roads policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport has explained that different forces use different approaches and this could be relevant to the change. However, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said just last year that motorists who were caught using mobile phones could potentially face tougher punishments, this doesn’t seem to have come to fruition.
A Freedom of Information Act request by BBC Radio 5 found that 72,753 fixed penalty notices were given out in the whole of 2014 and this shows a marked fall from 2013 where 95,941 were issued and if we go as far back as 2010, 122,752 were issued. The fall may mean that people are adhering to the laws but it could mean that police simply don’t have the resources to focus on the roads.
Staffordshire Police, for example, reported only four fixed penalty notices for mobile phone use in 2014 whilst the Metropolitan Police issued 22,729. In Staffordshire the force explained they have their own individual programme developed to deal with motorists.
Penalties for Driving and Using your Mobile
Drivers who are found to be using their mobile phones at the wheel can receive an immediate fixed penalty notice, which equates to three penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine. In his statement last year, Patrick McLoughlin said this could increase to six points but this hasn’t come to fruition. In fact, for many areas the police figures suggest the opposite is happening and many forces have been offering first-time offenders with a chance to attend a road safety course, rather than receive the fine and points.
In 2014, over 99,000 people attended the What’s Driving Us? Course in their local area. The course is aimed at motorists who are found to be intentionally breaking the laws on the roads, and this includes using mobile phones. This huge turnout was a 53% increase on the previous year, further supporting the idea that first-time offenders are being given the chance to make amends.
Individual police forces have the autonomy to choose how they want to treat offenders, with those found to be offending for the first time often given the chance of reprieve but there is hope this lowering of the number of penalty notices is due to a change in driver attitudes.