Five months on from the introduction of harsher penalties for drivers caught using their mobile phones, a new study has shown that 43% of drivers are still unaware of the new six-point penalty and £200 on-the-spot fine.

The research, commissioned by car service and repair company Kwik Fit, also found that nearly half of the 2,043 people who participated in the study didn’t know that newly-qualified drivers caught using their phone would lose their licence.

How drivers are using their phones

  • 26% use their phone for satnav or GPS purposes
  • 19% take calls
  • 17% read text messages
  • 16% makes calls without a hands-free set
  • 12% send text messages

Over-connected?

Worryingly, younger drivers were the most ignorant of the law and the harsher penalties. Those aged 18-24 were three times more likely to believe that it is legal to use their phone when stopped at traffic lights, twice as likely to say you can answer calls but not make outgoing ones, and that drivers can use their phone in slow-moving traffic.

With 40% of young drivers involved in road accidents, the study found that 8% of 18-24-year old drivers admitted they had crashed as a result of being distracted by a mobile phone. A further 8% said using their mobile had almost caused them to have an accident.

For all other drivers, these figures stood significantly lower at 2% and 3% respectively.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, described the findings of the study as “very worrying indeed”. He urged drivers to “remember that they are the most important safety feature in the vehicle” and that “any form of distraction can have serious consequences”.

 

43% of drivers ignorant of harsher penalties for phone use
34% of drivers are still using their mobile phones without a hands-free set

Kwik Fit’s study comes as government figures show that the number of fatal and serious accidents where the use of a mobile was a contributory factor has risen by 20% in the five years to 2015.

Accidents with mobile phone usage as a contributory factor

Fatal accidents Serious accidents Slight accidents All accidents
2015 22 75 343 440
2014 21 84 387 492
2013 22 73 327 422
2012 17 67 294 378
2011 22 55 297 374

Preventative measures?

Car manufacturers have made great strides in improving safety, but it seems drivers can’t resist the lure of technology. So what about changing the technology?

Apple is finalising a new ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature for iOS 11, which will launch in the next month or so. Based on the existing ‘Do Not Disturb’ function, it mutes incoming calls, texts and notifications. There is also the option to automatically send a message to your contacts to let them know you’re driving and will get back to them. Incoming phone calls can still be picked up, but only if the phone is connected to a hands-free system.

Do Not Disturb While Driving can be set to come on automatically when connected to the car’s Bluetooth or manually activated. The automatic setting turns Do Not Disturb While Driving on when the iPhone detects the vehicle accelerating. Passengers can deactivate it.

43% of drivers ignorant of mobile phone use penalties
Some cars now have the ability to charge devices wirelessly

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.