Road Safety News

Survey suggests new penalties not deterring mobile phone users

Tuesday 16th May 2017

A recent survey suggests that despite the introduction of tougher mobile phone penalties, as many as two thirds of motorists may still be using their device at the wheel.

In the survey, published last week by the price comparison website, 66% of respondents admitted to texting when stationary in traffic, 37% confessed to checking social media and 18% to making calls.

While the vehicle is on the move, 20% of respondents admitted to making calls, 6% to checking social media and 2% to texting.

On 1 March, the penalty for those caught using a mobile phone while driving doubled to six points and a £200 fine.

The survey of more than 1,000 motorists, carried out in April 2017, found that just 37% of motorists said that the tougher penalties will stop them using their phones while driving.

When asked if the Government was doing enough to curb mobile phone usage, 41% of respondents said that the new measures were not tough enough.

In terms of knowledge of the law itself, 8% of respondents thought they could use their phone while stationary with the engine running - and almost 19% thought they would only be fined if caught using a phone while actually driving. In fact, it is illegal to touch a mobile phone, even with a hands free set, while driving and has been since 2003.

Scott Hamilton, managing director of, said: “The Government’s recent crackdown does not appear to be discouraging motorists to abide by the law and it’s deeply concerning that so many are continuing to use their mobile phones when they are driving.

“It’s clear that there is some confusion over what the fines apply to and the Government needs to do more to educate motorists about what constitutes a fine and points. It also looks like the new fines don’t go far enough, to be a strong deterrent for motorists.”

Want to know more about mobile phones and road safety? 
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I agree wholeheartedly with the comments that Hugh has made. Perhaps the officers that have been supporting the 1.5 metre space for overtaking cyclists can again be brought out and put out at junctions and report every offender that they see playing with their mobile phones be they moving or static. When there is ENFORCEMENT then there will be a greater degree of compliance as drivers start to realise and appreciate that they cannot get away with it.

From previous items within this site I have spoken about the role of the police as enforcers of the law and in particular my own experience and must now say that whilst I reported offenders it was the case that only one in three offenders spoken to was reported for offences. Many more were warned or cautioned or advised and that together with a presence that deters illegal or anti social behaviour is the value of having police officers on the beat. They regulate peoples conduct particularly younger individuals and advise and teach others how to behave and obey the law.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

We're getting too bogged down in what constitutes the offence.

To get back to the article, I suspect it's not so much the penalties that may not deter offenders, but their belief that they won't be caught. As Rod suggests - take any busy route at peak time when vehicles are slow moving and the drivers can be easily observed by one or two officers and tickets issued. Do that for an hour each day at different locations and I think quite a few will be caught. I think there's a finite number of repeat phone users rather than say an infinite number of once-only users i.e. you either choose to use your 'phone regularly whilst driving - or you don't at all. A pattern to be seen in the committal of other motoring offences as well.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

Dave Finney: I've always read it as that it's illegal to touch/hold a mobile phone that isn't in a cradle, mainly due to the fact that any phone, any GPS enabled sat-nav at any time transmits and/or receives data - regardless of whether or not it is a smartphone or not.

Saying that, following case law, it's legal to place a mobile phone on your lap and use that as a phone "cradle".

This legislation is a bone of contention on a motoring law forum I frequent, where many regulars complain how poorly the law was worded.
David Weston, Corby

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

Look, you can walk down any queue of standing traffic and see people using their mobile phones. Its not hard or difficult for a plain clothes policeman to enforce. Its just the political and establishment will that's lacking.
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

The discussion as to whether touching a phone is illegal is academic if the chance of being detected in any use is so low. PCSOs with cameras to capture reg no and appearance of drivers holding phone to ear might make a difference.
Paul Teddington

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Is this the source of the confusion?

The law states: "No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a road if he is using—(a)a hand-held mobile telephone"

This suggests you can't "use" a phone for anything but, further on, it states: "a mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function"

This means that the law is only broken if:
!) you are holding the phone
2) you are engaged in a call, text, email or similar

So, if the phone is in a holder, it is legal to run a sat-nav, take a photo, use as a dictaphone or any other non-interactive app, and it is legal to touch the phone to do so. Is that not the correct interpretation of the law?

Is this the law here?:
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

Your comment is somewhat contradictory. You state. "what I disagree with is the use of misleading scare tactics in order to make people comply with the law"? To clarify, if misleading scare tactics are being used to make people comply with the law, how can those scare tactics be misleading? To be clear and for the benefit of everyone, the prohibited use of a mobile phone whilst driving is not limited to merely the exchange of communications. It's prohibited use is far more broader and includes but is not limited to, browsing the internet, taking imagery whether still or not and or any other form of interaction which falls within the scope of using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

The legislation is clear. It is the use of the hand held mobile device for sending or receiving communications. Again I do not condone the use of mobile phones while driving.
What I do disagree with is the use of misleading and scare tactics to get people to comply with the law. Any legal advocate could overturn a case brought to court for touching a phone. If the law is quoted in a manner to try and influence individuals it should be correct and not misleading.

Agree (11) | Disagree (5)

Whilst it might not be a criminal offence to use or touch our vehicles media consoles whilst driving, it is of course a criminal offence to allow ourselves to become dangerously distracted by them and with the widespread installation and use of advanced touch sensitive and digital in car media equipment I do believe that this can lead to high levels of both prolonged physical and visual distraction and so issues with this may well be addressed by the authorities in the near future. The level of distraction caused from using a media console however maybe somewhat less distracting than that of interacting with a mobile phone. We familiarise ourselves with where media equipment buttons are located and only on occasion may we need to take our eyes off the road for a split second to operate the basic features of them. This level of distraction is therefore not comparable to the risks associated with touching or handling a mobile phone which can induce both prolonged physical and visual driving distraction.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (6) | Disagree (8)

I don't think anyone's playing down the deaths and injuries caused by mobile phone driver distraction Brett or the seriousness of this offence, but I think there's a big difference between merely touching the phone and 'using' it whilst driving i.e. holding it, looking at it and being distracted by what is on the screen or a conversation.

Touching the car's CD or HVAC controls is not essential either and can require taking one's eyes of the road, but drivers do it but I am sure that is never going to be illegal although I am sure collision have been caused by such distractions. Incidentally, where does this leave the police who regularly have to drive with one hand whilst operating ('touching') their lapel radios?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Harsh yes, but what really is harsh is the unnecessary deaths and injuries caused by mobile phone driving distraction. Touching a button on a mobile phone may seem harmless and no different to touching the controls of our vehicle. In reality, touching the controls of our vehicle are essential and do not require us to take our eyes of the road, unlike touching the button of our phone which can lead to prolonged and unnecessary visual and physical driver distraction.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

A penalty for merely touching the 'phone with a fingertip seems a bit harsh and doesn't seem any different than touching any of the controls on the dashboard which relate to and are part of the vehicle. How could an observer outside the car possibly see a driver 'touching' the 'phone anyway?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)


If you were caught 'interacting hands on' with the phone whether in the cradle or not, this would be an offence and you would be liable to prosecution if caught in the act. Either touching or depressing a button on a mobile phone I'm sure would be classed as interacting with the phone. The likelihood of committing an offence would depend on what part of the phone you were touching and or whether you were actually interacting with the phone or not.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (6) | Disagree (8)

Talking of fine lines, you don't have to 'hold' a phone to 'touch' it. If I am stopped at the traffic lights with the phone in a cradle and I touch my phone to choose some music stored on it, am I holding it? Am I committing an offence? Even if I am technically committing an offence, it seems from the guidance on the CPS link Keith provided that I am unlikely to be prosecuted.
Pat, Wales

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)


The law states it is illegal to ‘use’ a hand-held phone whilst driving. The physical ‘use’ of a hand held mobile phone therefore requires us to touch does it not. So, it is illegal to touch our mobile phone for physical use whilst driving however it is not illegal to touch our mobile phone if we are not specifically using it. There is a very fine line here between touch and physical use and as I stated before, if we are not intending to use our mobile phone whilst driving, why would we need to touch it.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

I appreciate the time taken to source the links. I have not unfortunately taken time to check them. Each one of them seems to be a UK tabloid paper or local paper. It is likely that these reports have given their own take on what the says. The full depth of current legislation will not be found in such articles. It would be an unwise CPS to charge someone for touching a mobile phone when driving as they would clearly lose the case as it is not an offence to do so.

The following link should provide the information relating to offences while use of a mobile phone while driving:

As I stated before I do not condone the use of mobile phones while driving, just stating the law should be referred to correctly and not using misleading statements.

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)


Please read below links. In all articles it states it is illegal to touch a mobile phone whilst driving. Therefore, being more specific, if you touch, handle or pick up your phone whilst driving you are at risk of being accused of using your phone when driving.
Brett Cattlin

Agree (4) | Disagree (7)

Are we being led too much by public opinion surveys now, to the extent that opinion derived conclusions are in danger of becoming established enough to shape policies? Discreet, impartial, side-of-the-road visual surveys on 'phone use behind the wheel are a more reliable indication.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

Perhaps you can read again what has been said. There is no such law stating that you can not touch a mobile phone while driving. No one is condoning the use of using mobile phones while driving it is dangerous and leads to many incidents. If articles are written from an informed point and intend to convey the law to the public then they should be factually correct. However, if you have the reference to show the said law passed in 2003 that touching a mobile phone while driving is illegal then post it for all to see.

Agree (13) | Disagree (4)

If you are not intending to use your mobile phone whilst driving, why would you need to touch it? Hence the simple reason it is illegal to touch your mobile phone whilst driving. Remember the law is put in place to protect yourself and other road users from mobile phone driving distraction, so why oppose it?
Brett Cattlin

Agree (9) | Disagree (10)

Correct me if I am wrong. Since when has it been illegal to touch a mobile phone when on the move. The offence is one of using the mobile phone for communications is it not. Would be interesting to see the charge sheet for touching a mobile phone while driving. No different to touching a chocolate bar I guess. I do not condone use of the mobile phone when driving.

Agree (22) | Disagree (5)