Increased mobile phone penalties "ineffective" say road safety experts

Some of the UK's leading road safety experts have called current laws banning drivers from using hand-held mobile phones ineffective. They also say enforcement should be beefed up to save lives on UK roads.

As the first anniversary of the introduction of increased penalties (27th February) in the UK, the Local Authority Road Safety Officers' Association (LARSOA) has carried out a poll of its 185 members on the effectiveness of the legislation banning the use of hand-held mobile phones behind the wheel.

Last February the penalty for using a hand held mobile phone while driving rose from £30 to £60 with three penalty points added in an attempt to further discourage drivers from flaunting the law.

LARSOA members were asked whether they thought that the legislation had been effective. The key results were:

100% of members agreed with the legislation.

75% of members did not think it has been effective.

The survey also asked what more could be done to make our roads safer by increasing the effectiveness of the ban.

over 90% of respondents called for stricter enforcement of the current laws as crucial to making roads safer.

85% believed that mobile phones are the most dangerous in car distraction.

Malcolm Burns, Chair of LARSOA, said: "The message here is that the tougher penalties are clearly not having the intended effect. Our members are continuing to see people flaunting the law by using mobile phones whilst driving.

"Using a hand-held phone behind the wheel means that you aren't concentrating 100% on the driving task and that is putting not only your own life at risk, but also the lives of other road users."

In line with government campaigns, LARSOA urges drivers to switch off their mobile phones when they get in the car and make use of voicemail so they are not even tempted to answer it if it rings.

"Even using a phone with a hands-free kit means you aren't paying full attention to keeping the vehicle under control and we would urge drivers to take advantage of their voicemail systems and switch their phone off before starting any journey .", Mr Burns went on to say.