Motoring organisation the RAC tells BBC current affairs programme Inside Out that a reduction in the numbers of traffic police has led to fewer people being prosecuted for driving while using a mobile phone.
BBC Inside Out Yorkshire & Lincolnshire has obtained figures from the Ministry of Justice which show that the number of offenders convicted of “using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone while driving” has nearly halved to just under 12,000 between 2012 and 2016.
The RAC suggest that this drop in convictions is due to fewer traffic police operating on the roads in England and Wales. A FOI request found the number of traffic officers had fallen from 3766 in 2007 to 2643 in 2017.
Nick Lyes, from the RAC, said: “If thereʼs less police officers on the road enforcing the law that means thereʼs probably less prosecutions taking place as well. We’re concerned that our most recent data shows that bad habits are creeping up again. What weʼve got to do in this country is to make the use of a handheld mobile phone whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”
Despite a change in the law in 2017 which doubled the penalty points awarded for using a mobile phone when driving, many drivers are still breaking the law and endangering lives. Figures obtained from the RAC show that a quarter of drivers admit to talking on a handheld phone while driving while 40% of drivers admit to texting at the wheel.
RAC figures also show that there were nearly 2300 crashes caused by drivers using a mobile phone between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, 33 of these crashes were fatal.
David Kirk from Horncastle was killed in 2016 when Samantha Ayres, also from Horncastle, was distracted while using her phone and veered into the wrong side of the road, hitting David’s motorbike. David was married with a one year old daughter.
His wife, Katie Kirk thinks no-one should use their phone while driving: “I just want people to think. It’s not worth it. What it can do to someone. It’s just stupid.”
In West Yorkshire, police officers use a double decker bus to help them catch drivers who are using their phone while at the wheel of their vehicles. Officers on the bus spot offenders and then share the details with officers in two patrol vehicles. But it becomes apparent that two vehicles aren’t enough.
Russell Miller, PCSO with West Yorkshire Police, said: “There was a point when we spotted one [offender] and started to pass on those details. Then literally out of the next 10 or 12 vehicles, about 70% were using their mobile phone and we can’t pass those details on and record them quick enough.”
You can watch the full programme on BBC Inside Out in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire tonight (Monday 4 March) at 7.30pm on BBC One. The programme will also be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer