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A third of advanced drivers support confiscation of mobile phones for offenders behind the wheel

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A third of advanced drivers support confiscation of mobile phones for offenders behind the wheel



A third of advanced drivers support confiscation of mobile phones for offenders behind the wheel

•Survey shows opinion is split on whether current penalties are sufficient

•Distraction caused by illegal phone use at the wheel seen as a bigger problem

than three-years ago and a quarter want it to be a top-three roads policing priority


More than a third (34%) of advanced drivers in the UK would support the police confiscating a motorist’s mobile phone if offenders were caught using it illegally behind the wheel, according to new research published today by the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart.

A survey of 2,437 IAM RoadSmart members* carried out in February 2024 found that a third (34%) of respondents support the idea of the police confiscating mobile phones for a short period with 27% of them believing offenders should pay to get their phone back. This would be an additional punishment to the existing £200 fine and points endorsement. A further 7% support confiscation but do not think offenders should pay to get their phone back. A small majority (56%) were unconvinced that taking a phone was appropriate.

When asked if they feel the current £200 fine and 6 points on the licence is a sufficient punishment, half (51%) said it is about right, with 42% believing it is too lenient. A meagre 4% said the current penalty is too harsh. Those feeling the status quo is too lenient were asked what a more appropriate penalty would be, with the most popular alternative (selected by 34%) being an instant six-month driving ban and an unlimited fine. This was followed by a £1,000 fine and six points on a licence (supported by 20%).

These figures are published alongside a separate survey** for IAM RoadSmart (members and non-members) showing almost two-thirds (62%) of drivers believe that driver distraction such as talking and texting at the wheel is a bigger problem than three-years ago. A large majority of drivers (80%) consider others’ illegal phone use as a threat to their own personal safety, with a quarter (24%) now believing it to be a top-three priority for roads policing.

On enforcement, separate data** obtained by IAM RoadSmart via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the DVLA shows that 34,738 drivers were issued with a CU80 endorsement on their licence in 2022 for illegally using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel. Worryingly, the same figures illustrate drivers aged between 17-24 made up a tenth of those receiving endorsements, despite only representing 7% of all licence holders. Home Office data*** reveals that 37,900 drivers in England were issued either a fixed penalty notice (FPN), driver retraining, or court action for illegal phone use in 2022.

In 2017, the penalties doubled to £200 and six points on a licence, having previously been a £100 fine and three-points. New drivers caught within 2 years of passing their practical test risk having their licence revoked. In March 2022, following several high-profile cases where drivers had convictions overturned on a technicality and because of campaigning from the road safety community, the Government closed the loophole which saw some drivers escape punishment. This legal ambiguity meant actions such as taking pictures or playing games while driving was not seen as ‘interactive communication’. In 2023****, some police forces began trialling camera technology to detect phone use at the wheel and following review, warning letters or a notice of intended prosecution were sent to drivers depending on the severity of the offence.

IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Standards Nicholas Lyes said:

“Using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel is illegal and dangerous and many drivers want police forces to prioritise enforcement against these offenders. Moreover, the idea of confiscation of phones and paying an additional fine for its return has the backing of a surprisingly sizeable number of drivers.

“While we are never going to see a cop on every corner, camera technology is already being trialled in some parts of the country and could be rolled out nationally subject to Home Office type approval and the final trial findings.

“We have seen the tragic consequences of drivers using their phones at the wheel in high-profile cases such as that on the M66 where a young driver filmed himself travelling at catastrophic speeds resulting in the death of Frankie Jules-Hough and her unborn child.

“The Government should review the fine level alongside type-approving new camera technology to improve detection. These actions should be supported by a renewed high-profile education campaign highlighting the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving and consider the merits of offering more training courses. We also think social media companies have a responsibility to review policies and remove content as soon as possible when drivers post videos of themselves breaking the law.

“Ultimately, we need to break the cycle of phone addition once drivers get behind the wheel as it is a serious distraction that can have tragic results.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

*Research was conducted by Online95 to IAM RoadSmart members on behalf of IAM RoadSmart in February 2024.

**FOI response from DVLA: In 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023, how many drivers received 6 points on their licence for illegal phone use while driving? For the same years, how many of these were aged 17-24?

Year Number of drivers given CU80 (6 points on licence) Number of drivers aged 17-24 given CU80 (6 points on licence) Proportion (aged 17-24) YoY change - all drivers
2022 34,738 3,623 10.4% 75%
2023 (Up to 25 Nov) 24,830 2,348 9.5% -29%

**IAM RoadSmart Road Safety Culture Report 2023 – to be published in due course. Figures are from data spreadsheets and are available on request from IAM RoadSmart press team

*** Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and other outcomes for motoring offences statistics 2022/23 – table FPN 5 https://www.gov.uk/government/...

**** https://www.itv.com/news/westc...

Press contacts:

Press office – +44 (0) 20 8996 9777 – press.office@iam.org.uk

Nicholas Lyes, Director of Policy and Standards, IAM Roadsmart

Rebecca Dundon, Press officer, IAM RoadSmart

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About IAM RoadSmart

IAM RoadSmart is the UK’s largest road safety charity. It has a vision of a society where all road users can safely and sustainably use the public highways together. It does this through a range of means including through the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart was formed in March 1956 and has around 75,000 members that supports its campaigns on road safety. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses.

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit: www.iamroadsmart.com

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About IAM RoadSmart

IAM RoadSmart is the UK’s largest road safety charity. It has a vision of a society where all road users can safely and sustainably use the public highways together. It does this through a range of means including through the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart was formed in March 1956 and has over 75,000 members that supports its campaigns on road safety. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses.

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit: www.iamroadsmart.com

Contacts

Rebecca Dundon

Press contact Press Officer Media Enquiries 020 8996 9777

Nicholas Lyes

Press contact Policy and Standards Director

Enhancing road safety for all

At IAM RoadSmart we make better drivers and riders. As the UK’s largest road safety charity, formed in 1956, we’ve spent more than 60 years making our roads safer by improving driver and rider skills through coaching and education. If you are interested in receiving additional driving and riding tips, journey blogs and information on all things relating to safer roads, or if you want to try your hand at becoming an advanced driver or rider sign up to become a member

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