The road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has called for a crackdown on drivers breaking phone and seatbelt laws. The call follows the publication of a new Department for Transport survey that reveals the scale of criminal non-compliance in the UK.

Regarding mobile phones, the survey found that, in 2017:

  • 1.1% of all vehicle drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile phone while driving

  • 0.4% were observed holding the phone to their ear

  • 0.8% were spotted holding the phone in their hand.

The figure for England and Wales was 0.6% of drivers, compared to 2.0% in Scotland. A higher proportion of male drivers (1.2%) were observed using a hand-held mobile phone while driving than female drivers (1.1%). The worst offenders were reported to be taxi/private hire drivers (3.3%), followed by van drivers (2.1%) then car drivers (1%).

Regarding seatbelts, 96.5% of all vehicle drivers were observed using a seatbelt. 3.5% failed to wear one.

For passengers, those in rear seats were the worst culprits with a compliance rate of only 90.7%. This compared to 93.1% for front seat passengers.

IAM Roadsmart points out that the findings reveal that far too many motorists are still ignoring seatbelt and mobile phone usage laws and putting lives at risk. It says that fear of being caught must rise if behaviour is to change.

Referring to the survey, Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said:

“In spite of these being small percentages, this still amounts to hundreds of thousands of people who daily flout the law and put themselves and others at risk.

“The best way of tackling this ever-present issue is to make people believe there is a high chance of being caught. This could start tomorrow if consistent guidelines on using mobile speed camera vans to enforce seatbelt and mobile phones laws were issued.

“Currently there is no standard approach on using this high-profile resource across the UK. Making non-wearing of seatbelts an endorsable offence is also a quick win. Not only would it persuade more people to take the offence seriously, but it might tempt them to take a seatbelt awareness course. People avoid using seatbelts for a wide range of individual reasons and these views need to be challenged face-to-face.”

Legislation making it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving or riding a motor vehicle on the road has been in place since 2003. Penalties increased to £100 in 2013 and then again to £200 and six penalty points in March 2017, with a maximum fine of £1000 (£2500 if driving a lorry or bus) if the case goes to court.

Seatbelt and Mobile Phone Use Surveys: 2017 Report, was published by DfT in February 2019.

IAM Roadsmart provides advanced training for business drivers and guidance for company care fleet operators.

Last reviewed 19 February 2019