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Mobile Myths Ė drivers continue to ignore new mobile phone rules

Kwik Fit | Thursday 3rd August 2017 2:15pm

Driving with mobile phone

Four months on from the introduction of increased penalties for mobile phone use while driving, many drivers still appear to be largely unaware of the new laws and the serious repercussions if they are found to be breaking them. Despite high profile government and police campaigns highlighting the dangers of using a mobile when driving, our latest research reveals that motorists are largely still ignoring the law and continue to put their lives, and those of other road users, at risk.

Here's what our research found:

What is the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving?

43% of the drivers we asked, thatís more than two in five people, did not know that the minimum penalty is now 6 points and a £200 fine if you are found to be using a mobile phone while behind the wheel. For particularly dangerous offences you can be taken to court where you could receive the maximum fine of £1,000 and even banned from driving. Drivers who have passed their driving test in the past two years will lose their licence outright for a single mobile phone related offence. Only 47% of the people we asked knew about these additional rules that specifically target inexperienced drivers who are the most likely to use their phone behind the wheel.

Driving without hands free is still rife

Our research also found that a third of drivers (34%) are still using their mobile phone without a hands free set or Bluetooth connection to the car*. The figures are especially alarming as the most recent government statistics show that in five years there was a 24% increase in the number of accidents in which a contributory factor was the driver being distracted by using a mobile phone*. Hands free kits and Bluetooth are the only safe way to use your phone while in the drivers seat and even then they can land you in trouble. If the police pull you over because they believe you were distracted, for example using the sat nav on a phone mounted to the dashboard, you can be given a penalty and fine even if you donít have the mobile in your hand.

The most common mobile phone offences

So why exactly are drivers so obsessed with their phones? Ė what exactly are they using them for while behind the wheel? Unsurprisingly, more than a quarter (26%) of drivers told us that they use their sat nav or GPS on their phone to help navigate to their destination. But more worryingly, almost one in five say they use it to take calls (19%) and while some drivers claim they only use their phone in an emergency, more than half a million motorists admit to making calls on almost every journey they make. The other big offender is text messaging Ė 17% admit to getting their phone out while driving to read text messages while a further one in eight (12%) actually send texts which is a huge distraction when trying to concentrate on the road.

Serious injuries and fatalities continue to increase

While many of the collisions caused as a result of mobile phone use may be minor bumps with no injury, government data reveals that there has been a large increase in serious accidents. The number of accidents in which people were killed or seriously injured and the use of a mobile phone was a contributory factor, increased by 25% between 2011 and 2015 (the most recent years for which full data is available). Although the number of fatal accidents in which a driver has been distracted by a mobile phone has remained consistent at an average of 22 per year Ė there has been a big rise in the number of accidents resulting in serious or slight injuries.

The biggest mobile phone offenders

It is worrying that it is the youngest drivers who are the most oblivious about mobile phone rules, despite the use of a handheld mobile phone having been illegal since before they started driving.  We found that drivers aged 18-24 are nearly three times more likely than the average motorist to believe itís legal to use your phone when stopped at traffic lights, and twice as likely to say you can answer calls but not make outgoing ones while on the road. There is also a common misconception from young drivers that it fine to use your mobile phone while in slow moving traffic. However none of these uses are legal.

It is also the youngest drivers who are most likely to have experienced trouble on the road due to mobile phone use. Almost one in ten (8%) drivers aged 18-24 say they have had a collision because they were distracted by their mobile phone. Yet a further 32% of 18-24 year olds admitted to have had a near miss and stated that being distracted by their mobile was directly to blame.

Itís clear that more needs to be done to educate young drivers in the very first weeks and months of driving as they are the most likely to take risks. Kwik Fit is working with schools and colleges around the country to hold events aimed at improving the safety of those drivers who are new to the road and education on the use of mobiles is an important part of that. Any school, college or other youth group who would like to hold a free road safety event can contact their local Kwik Fit centre who will help arrange this.

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