‘Hard-core’ of drivers still using phones due to falling roads police numbers

Millions of people still feel safe using their phones while driving because of falling traffic officer numbers, according to new research.

Sep 21, 2017

Millions of people still feel safe using their phones while driving because of falling traffic officer numbers, according to new research. More than nine million people still regularly text, call and tweet at the wheel despite penalties doubling earlier this year, the RAC claims. Although the number of offenders has dropped eight per cent since 2016, 4.4 million drivers are unaware of the law change – and 5.3 million who knew about it said the tougher sanctions have not convinced them to stop. The RAC believes falling roads police numbers mean many people do not expect to be caught. RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams said: “Twelve months ago our research revealed that the illegal use of handheld mobile phones by drivers was at epidemic proportions – a year on and the situation still remains dire. “Despite the law change and some high profile police enforcement campaigns we are in a situation where overall roads policing officer numbers are down on 2016 by a massive 30 per cent since 2007. “It is clear we have a hard-core of persistent offenders who believe they can get away with it by continuing to flout the law every day and we fear this may get worse with fewer dedicated roads policing officers.” Drivers caught using handheld devices have faced six penalty points and a £200 fine since March as part of a government crackdown on the dangerous habit. Despite this, the RAC found 23 per cent of motorists still admit to illegally making or receiving calls, down from 31 per cent last year. Just 16 per cent of drivers who knew about the new punishments said they had convinced them to stop and another 11 per cent – or 3.9 million – have curbed their habit “a little”. Ten per cent admitted that they use their phones because they feel they can get away with it. Since 2007, the number of roads policing officers in England and Wales has fallen 30 per cent from 3,766 to 2,463. Six in ten people said there are not enough officers to effectively enforce traffic laws. The RAC has now called for drivers to make a public pledge to stop using their phones at the wheel. Mr Williams said: “While we can only hope that the hard core of offenders who persist in using their handheld phones regardless of the significant risks involved will feel the full weight of the law – the reality is that this may not be the case because of the declining number of roads police. “However, there is an opportunity to appeal to those motorists who have curbed their behaviour a little, but admit to occasionally slipping back into the habit, to stop using their handheld phone at the wheel once and for all.”

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