/ Motoring, Technology

Are drivers still flouting the law by using their mobiles?

Should the authorities come down harder on drivers using mobile phones? The penalties might be severe, but do you think they are being sufficiently enforced?

I was on my way to work the other day when a pedestrian walked out in front of my bike, without looking. Only once I’d swerved past him could I see the other side of his face where a mobile was rammed to his ear.

He was mid-conversation, not even considering what he’d just done. I missed him by a whisker and I must have caused him to jump out of his skin. He was back on the pavement when I turned back to give him the most scornful look I could muster!

I thought his actions were pretty gormless and had I hit him, he would have been totally to blame. In London, this behaviour seems pretty much the norm. And while I’ve noticed it happening in my home town, it isn’t nearly as commonplace.

But it’s so much worse when someone in a vehicle is on their phone. Things suddenly become a whole lot more serious.

Harsh penalties for calling in your car

When we asked you about your driving bugbears, drivers using mobile phones was the second biggest irritant, taking 20% of your votes.

The act of using a hand-held mobile while driving is certainly illegal, with an automatic £60 penalty and three points on your licence if you’re caught. And if it were to go to court, the penalty could go up to £2,500 for a public service or heavy goods vehicle, or £1,000 for a car. You could also be banned from driving.

These are severe deterrents but, to me, they don’t seem to be working (from seeing so many drivers still flouting the law). Are the rules enforced? Or are drivers left to tootle along, phone clamped to ear and one hand on the wheel?

The dangers of driving on the phone

The Institute of Advanced Motorists recently published research claiming the use of mobile phones while driving is more dangerous than drink driving. Admittedly they were looking at reaction times while doing something as stupid as trying to access social networking sites, rather than simply making a call.

Frankly, it never occurred to me that anyone would try to access the internet on their smartphone while also at the controls of a car! But it seems, however daft this action might seem, the police need to look out for people trying to update Facebook on the move.

I have a couple of friends who are policemen and they’ve spoken of giving people verbal warnings about mobile use, but as far as I know they rarely actually apply any penalties.

So, should we come down harder on offenders? While most people on mobiles don’t necessarily have accidents, the risk that their negligence might cause a collision or hit someone is, in my view, too high.

Should the authorities come down harder on drivers using mobile phones?

Yes - we need more severe penalties and further enforcement (60%, 286 Votes)

Yes - the penalties are severe enough; they just need to be enforced (34%, 163 Votes)

No - the problem of drivers using mobile phones is overblown (5%, 22 Votes)

No - the penalties are just right and they're being properly enforced (2%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 483

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As some people don’t seem to care about fines or points, I’d see to see people who have been stopped for using a mobile, simply having the mobile phone sim card and all taken from them on the spot. The police can then destroy the sim in front of them (with all their precious data) and then at a later date sell the phone to help raise money to fund the police.

And for repeat offenders, the police just take the car as well as the phone. And no getting your belongings out of the car either.

And for those thinking this is a bit extreme I have one phrase for you. “Don’t use your phone while driving”.


Last week I had to brake to avoid hitting a large 4WD vehicle being driven round a corner on the wrong side of the road by someone with a phone in one hand. I received a pleasant smile for my action.

I have had to brake or otherwise take avoiding action on numerous occasions. Sometimes the drivers have been negotiating junctions and roundabouts with one hand on the wheel and their phone in the other hand. Hands-free phones may help but drivers can be in a world of their own when on the phone.

I do not normally support radical action, but William’s suggestion might be what is needed to make drivers stop using their phones.

Perhaps we should have an automated phone service to report the registration number of a vehicle being driven by a phone user. It would be difficult to refute several independent reports.


The problem is that the minimum penalty (£60) is far too low. The penalty should be at least as much as a factory-fitted Bluetooth hands-free (i.e. in the region of £500), otherwise it will always be cheaper to hold a phone to one’s ear than to buy the proper equipment. Even with the proper equipment in both my cars, I keep incoming calls as brief as possible and generally only make outgoing calls that relate to my journey; one’s attention can be easily distracted with both hands on the wheel.


Apparently this video was made in Belgium to get learner drivers to realise how dangerous it is to text and drive.


Being YouTube I can’t tell you if the claims are true, but seeing how people drive when trying to text should put people off if they don’t already realise the dangers.


Brilliant video Jonathan. I couldn’t agree more with the comments on this post so far – texting while driving is so incredibly dangerous, it seems Iike current measures simply don’t go far enough. I see this driving behaviour every day and have had plenty of near-misses with mobile-wielding drivers.

Like speeding – it seems to me that people are willing to take the risk with mobiles, as the likelihood is that they won’t get caught. If they do, a £60 fine and a few points is hardly the end of the world. I’d be happy to see the penalty rise steeply – but the issue here is mostly around getting that message out to enough people that it actually makes a significant difference. Additionally – enforcement gets more difficult (and unlikely) the more the police are stretched.

Maybe one day they’ll find some tech (like speed cameras) to help stamp this out, or maybe police should make a concerted effort over the next year (for example) to crack down on mobile use so, like speeding, we’d soon all know someone who had been caught out.

Chris Wilmot says:
14 May 2012

Completely agree that the phone and sim card should be ‘impounded’ immediately and either destroyed or removed to a ”Phone Pound” , and the owner charged £250 to get it back. This would be in addition to the automatic £500 for breaking the law. Also they should get 6 penalty points on the licence.
I see this law infringement several times a day, including by mothers with young children in the back!
If the police can have blitzes on drink driving why not on ‘ mobile driving’?


The amount of the fine is not the issue
The people flouting the law is not the issue.

It’s all about “enforcement”

When all these new laws are brought in, politicians can say “yes I introduced this law and it has succeeded in x number of cases”.

In reality there was already a law – driving without due care and attention – yet if it isn’t enforced, they just create a newer, more specific law.

Driving whilst on the phone (hands-free or not) inhibits the drivers responses. This is the same if you have a passenger. Say if your other half was having a go at you, that is in fact more distracting than someone on a phone because you can just turn them off.

Your other half just won’t shut up, where’s the law for that?


For years we all desired and salivated over this tech’, phones in cars.
The only man we all new who had one was Simon Templer [the Saint] and it was so cool, I and every one I knew just couldn’t wait until they invented carphones the common man could use, even the first big mobile phone seller was called the Carphone warehouse.
You know what they say about getting what you ask for.
Now I wish that they would build field generators in cars so the damned things just will not work unless you get out of the car or stop and switch it off. Same in buses, and please tell me, why do we need them on the London underground…