Sanctions for drivers using mobile phones decreasing…

…and vary widely by police region.

The week the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) launches their crackdown on mobile phone offences, RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has published a briefing on sanctions for mobile phone use.

Read the briefing here.

RoadPeace welcomes the attention that this crime is receiving, as substantial evidence indicates the distractive impact of mobile phone use on the quality of driving and the likelihood of collisions (RoSPA, 2018). Use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving was made illegal in 2003, however given that an estimated 25% of drivers have used their phone whilst driving (three times the estimated number of drink drivers), this is a year-round problem – not something that can be solved in a week.


RoadPeace’s briefing – Tackling the mobile menace – examines how mobile phone sanctions have been used since 2011 and how this varies by police region.


The analysis of the data shows some concerning trends; namely:


  • 67% drop in sanctions from 2011-17
  • The number of sanctions issued has dropped consistently year on year since 2011, with the largest drop 2016-17
  • Sanctions for mobile phone use varies widely by police region. Compared to the number of people killed and seriously injured (KSI), the overall number of sanctions per KSI in each police area varied by over seven-fold in 2017:
    • Cheshire had the highest number of sanctions per KSI (3.8)
    • South Yorkshire had the lowest number (0.5)


This downward trend needs to be placed within the context of cuts to police budgets. Cuts in police budgets and the number of officers employed has affected traffic policing disproportionately – see the briefing here. Analysis by RoadPeace has shown that there was a positive correlation between larger declines in mobile phone sanctions in police areas and greater reductions in the number of traffic officers. With traffic police officers cut by 43% since 2010 (excluding London), the decrease in mobile phone sanctions was to be expected.


Victoria Lebrec, crash victim and Campaign Coordinator for RoadPeace, said:


The decline in mobile phone sanctions is alarming. Cuts have consequences, and those consequences can be devastating. We would expect this offence to be given greater priority. Five people are killed on average per day on Britain’s roads, and it is unacceptable that we are in  position where this crime is increasingly unpunished.


Mobile phone use by drivers should be deterred to avoid serious injury and death. This requires much more frequent detection – but the statistics show that most police areas are sanctioning fewer drivers using their mobile phone.