RAC Foundation News - February 2017

An interesting take on tackling illegal use of mobiles at the wheel has been proposed by the Police Federation of England Wales which represents rank and file offices: confiscate offenders’ devices at the roadside.

Using a handheld phone whilst driving became illegal in 2003 and since then the penalty for doing so has increased a number of times with the maximum penalty due to rise again from 1 March 2017; to six points on an offender’s driving licence and a £200.00 fine.

But might the threat of the removal of the phone have a bigger impact on people’s behaviour?

Arguably, for those whose smartphone has become essential to their lifestyle the risk of confiscation could be a bigger deal than the more ‘traditional’ penalties favoured by the current law.

With too many people still flouting the law – and often with severe consequences; in 2015, 22 people were killed and 99 others seriously injured in accidents on Britain’s roads where a motorist using a mobile was a contributory factor – then the blunt message that if ‘you use it, you lose it’ might hit home.

Though it would be a massive step to give police the power to mete out summary justice at the roadside in this way, there are indications the public might support such a move.

The just-published transport element of the British Social Attitudes Survey 2015 reveals the anxiety many people have about illegal phone use: 90% of respondents agreed that the use of handheld mobiles whilst driving was dangerous; 48% agreed that all mobiles, including hands-free sets, are dangerous; and 39% agreed that even hands-free sets should be banned.

The RAC Foundation has argued that tech and telecoms companies could do more to help drivers themselves ‘do the right thing’ by developing and more commonly installing drive-safe modes that limit the functionality of phones in the car. Before Christmas ministers announced that they were due to speak to industry figures early in the new year to see if such approaches were practical.

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