Harsher punishments for using a mobile phone behind the wheel seems to have scared drivers in Wales, as the number of offenders has dropped 40% in a year.
This is following the introduction of harsher penalties for the offence, which doubled to £200 and six penalty points in March 2017.
The number of FPNs issued to drivers in Wales dropped to 1,567 in 2017 according to new figures obtained by Confused.com, the driver savings site, through Freedom of Information requests to the region’s police forces. This is down from a whopping 2,618 in 2016 – a 40% drop in just 12 months.
But while the law has had the desired effect of reducing the number of people using their phones behind the wheel, it has also led authorities to pocket more money. The figures suggest the amount collected in fines from offenders in Wales has more than doubled (136%) in 2017. At least £97,900 was paid in fines by offenders in the region in 2017, up from £41,500 in 2016.
And a very similar picture can be seen across the UK, with the number of offences plummeting year-on-year. In 2017, the number of FPNs issued to drivers dropped to 30,470, from a whopping 49,694 in 2016 – a 39% drop in just 12 months. And the total amount collected in fines across the UK has more than doubled (151%) in 2017.
At least £1,207,300 was paid in fines by offenders in 2017, up from £481,500 in 2016, due to fines increasing to £200 from March, and police now declining to offer education courses. And with the profit made from these fines increasing, UK roads will benefit from a bit of extra spending.
But it isn’t just the fines that will be stinging motorists. With the punishment now seeing offenders served six points instead of three, new drivers will lose their licence. In total, a whopping 157,847 points were dished out to offenders throughout last year, with 23,524 endorsements served for six points.
Further research by Confused.com suggests there are still some grey areas around mobile phones and the law, with more than one in 10 (11%) UK drivers saying they think the law is unclear. To educate drivers on when they can and can’t touch their phone while behind the wheel, Confused.com has partnered with Inspector Rob Gwynne-Thomas to create an FAQ guide to clear up any confusion on the law.
Currently, the law states that holding or touching a mobile phone at any point while driving is an offence, including while stationary, unless it is an emergency. Worryingly, more than one in four (27%) don’t know that entering a location in Google Maps, or tapping the phone screen (26%) while behind the wheel is illegal. And more than one in six (17%) don’t think making or answering a non-emergency call via the phone handset is illegal. However, all of these would count as an offence, unless the car is safely parked.
The research by Confused.com echoes the findings of the investigation, with the punishment seeming to have changed drivers’ attitudes towards the offence. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) of UK drivers say the harsher punishment has deterred them from using their mobile phone while driving, with more than a third (34%) saying they have stopped completely.