Err, maybe punishment works?

The number of motorists fined for driving while on the phone has plummeted four fold in just three years fuelling fears police are turning a blind eye.
Just fewer than 30,000 drivers were handed a £100 fine last year after being caught behind the wheel while using a mobile phone.
The figure contrasts sharply with the 123,000 people fined in 2011 and punishments have steadily fallen year on year since.
It suggests police may be letting an increasing number of culprits off with a verbal warning.
Road safety campaigners said while an improvement in hands free technology may be partly behind the fall, there is also a risk that a lack of police officers on the roads means offenders are avoiding being caught.

32 thoughts on “Err, maybe punishment works?”

  1. Sorry Tim, I haven’t noticed any reduction in the number of drivers using a mobile. This suggests less people are being prosecuted.

  2. I’m prepared to believe fewer people are making calls; but more people are writing texts or otherwise using their phones at the wheel.

  3. So why did they change then? It’s all very well suggesting a change in behaviour, but you really need a “because”. Did the new government tell them to ease off on it? Did the incentives change in some way?

    I suspect that “hands free” actually is a big shift. Bluetooth car stereos are cheap today.

  4. Like Colin, I still see idiots with a phone up to one ear as they drive along at the same sort of frequency as when the legislation was passed. One middle-age middle-class woman damn near knocked me off my bike a week or so back by just shooting out of her drive while on the phone.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    The unspoken subtext here seems to be that we should all be concerned because Britain is like Ferguson – the government is highly dependent on fines to make up the revenues they have no self-control about spending.

    If the police are issuing fewer fines, good. Maybe they could arrest a criminal or two.

  6. Increased use of smartfones? People don’t tend to hold them up to their ear. They use the l/speaker function. So they’re not obviously on the fone.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Ever so slightly related:

    He is calling on the Government to remove 80 per cent of British traffic lights. The criticism appears to be supported by an incident last October, when a complicated junction of 42 traffic lights in Beverley, East Yorkshire, stopped working. But rather than be hit by the expected chaos, traffic actually flowed more smoothly.

    You can’t fine people before you make what they are doing illegal.

  8. Like others on this thread, I still see more than a few drivers with their phones against their ears.

    IIRC, haven’t the number of plods on traffic duty been reduced over the last few years in favour of beefing up other departments because of the evil Tory cuts?

  9. Like several others in this thread I can’t say that I’ve noticed a decline in the numbers of people driving like dickheads whilst chattering on the phone.

  10. SMFS

    …the government is highly dependent on fines to make up the revenues…

    Have you any evidence for that?

  11. SMFS

    I know that junction in Beverley, and it is a nightmare. The traffic engineers who designed it must have been in the lower levels of the ability range. I can well imagine that traffic would flow more smoothly without it, though obviously that does not mean it would not flow even better with a well designed scheme.

  12. As someone who cycles around town regularly mobile phone use annoys me, but I think that people *talking* on a phone aren’t as much of a problem as those distracted in other ways. Being on a bike give you a good view into cars and in the last few weeks I have seen:

    -oodles of people texting/Facebook/whatever as they drive
    -someone reading a kindle
    -several people reading books/papers
    -loads of people juggling food & drink
    -one spectacular idiot who had a full vanity case on her lap and was doing her makeup
    -worst one was someone watching a film on the iPad they had on their dashboard

    Cyclists often do themselves no favours, but on this one I am completely in agreement. Too many fuckwits don’t seem to appreciate that they are supposed to be in control of several tonnes of metal moving at high speed.

    A factory owner wouldn’t allow his machine operators to do all these things. Treat your car like a machine.

  13. And I don’t have much use for those cyclists who cut out aural evidence from their surroundings by having earplugs in, and visual evidence by wearing hoodies and baseball caps, and who distract themselves by riding “no hands” while they text.

  14. Glendorran

    I’m a keen and frequent (leisure) cyclist too. And, yes, I’ve seen all of those – except the film on the iPad – OMG.

  15. More importantly what has happened to the number of accidents caused by phone use. Surely that is the only thing that matters.

  16. Road safety campaigners

    America doesn’t have “campaigners,” and it is refreshing. I read campaigners as “complainers.” Annoying little people who should be told STFU.

  17. Most new cars (even the relatively lowly, I think there’s a SEAT advert running at the moment to this effect) allow you to pair a phone to the stereo system using Bluetooth and have a microphone built in for hands-free operation.

    The thing about mobile phones is that its easy for plod to run a check, and if they find that you sent a text 2 minutes before being stopped, they have an open and shut case. This doesn’t mean that using a phone while driving is more distracting than changing a CD or controlling a couple of kids in the back, it just makes prosecution easier.

  18. @I sneeze in threes:

    I’ll dig out the link later, but I saw some police stats that show a dramatically increasing proportion of in-town collisions where at least one driver was on a phone.

  19. On the same principle, it should be illegal for drivers to communicate with children, mothers in law and know-it-all fathers, uncles etc.

  20. ‘On the same principle, it should be illegal for drivers to communicate with children, mothers in law and know-it-all fathers, uncles etc.’

    Or to think.

    Until running into somebody carries huge consequences, people will continue to trifle behind the wheel. They risk little using the phone.

  21. @GlenD It would be interesting to see which roads types have the most accidents, which have the most fines and the proportion of change for each type.

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Gamecock: “America doesn’t have “campaigners,” ”

    I see your campaigners, and raise you MADD.

    There is now a weight of evidence that goes beyond mere anecdote that reduction in road signalling furniture does not lead to an increase in accidents, quite the opposite. There’s also operational research to the effect that traffic humps kill many more people than they save through making ambulance response times longer. They’re dreadful on suspensions and you have to go over them in the least fuel-efficient gear. But they’re cheap, visible and low maintenance, so bureaucrats love ’em.

  23. More importantly what has happened to the number of accidents caused by phone use. Surely that is the only thing that matters.

    What really matters is the number of accidents in total.

    I’m not aware of any real evidence that accident rates increased by unusual amounts when mobile phone use became commonplace, or have decreased by unusual amounts since the police made stopping people using mobile phones while driving a higher priority than, say, investigating burglaries. Most likely, stupid people simply switched from doing other stupid things to talking on the phone, and would switch back if they couldn’t do so any more.

    Otherwise, I agree with a post above: our new car is the first one we’ve owned with a hands-free phone system, and it seems to be pretty much standard on anything tbut the cheapest models these days. The more of those cars in the market, the less people will be pulling out their phone to talk on it.

    Of course, the stupid will still be pulling the phone out to take selfies and post on Facebook, instead.

  24. @dearieme,

    “And I don’t have much use for those cyclists who cut out aural evidence from their surroundings by having earplugs in,”

    Unless they are serious noise cancelling headphones, earphones aren’t an issue – you can still tell what the car coming up behind you is going to do (i.e. whether the driver is likely to try and skim past you/is a serious risk) just based on the engine note even with earphones in.

    You are very much more sealed from your surroundings in an ordinary car, even without any music on, than you are on a bike. IMHO – though I grant you this is not universal – I am in a vastly greater state of awareness of everything around me when I’m on a bike, not least because you have to be. You can’t stop as fast as a car so you have to be very very alert to the things that will kill you and where they could come from.

    The key to this is always eye contact. You are constantly on the look out for problems. When you see someone (car or pedestrian) that could be about to cause you to need to swerve, you look straight at them. If you make eye contact, you’re safe – they’ve seen you. If there is no eye contact, they haven’t seen you and, crucially therefore, you’re not safe either – and in a very real and pressing sense that you only very rarely feel in a car. It’s a totally different experience. Earphones do nothing to change this.

    As for your other complaints, quite so.

  25. And Tim, sorry for bringing up the cyclist thing. 🙂

    By way of mea culpa, I would also like the bench to take into account regular use of a phone whilst driving.

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