- Last year, more than 2 in 5 (41%) UK drivers say they were caught using their phone while behind the wheel.
- The ability to disconnect from devices remains a big problem on UK roads. That’s as more than a third (35%) of drivers who have been caught red-handed in the past were reading a text or message.
- And further research shows that more drivers could be at risk of fines. That’s as more than half (51%) of motorists admit to using their mobile phone when driving.
- Drivers in London seem to be the worst offending. According to the latest data, the Metropolitan Police charged 5,492 drivers for using a mobile phone or device in 2022.
- Confused about the current mobile phone driving laws? Confused.com has teamed up with South Wales police to answer some frequently asked questions.
More than 16,000 UK drivers were caught using a mobile phone or device between January and October last year. And despite stricter laws being introduced last year to deter drivers from breaking the law, UK police forces issued a staggering £3.3m in fines(1).
That’s according to a Freedom of Information request by Confused.com, which looked at data from 31 UK police forces. The data revealed that 16,547 drivers were caught using a mobile phone last year, even with stricter laws introduced in 2022.
It’s common for UK motorists to have access to a mobile phone, sat nav or touch screen radio while driving. And while it may seem innocent to quickly change a song or set a location on maps, interacting with such devices when behind the wheel is illegal. With tighter penalties introduced last year, it’s now illegal to adjust your route on maps or a sat nav without pulling over in a safe place.(3) But it’s likely that the introduction of these stricter rules has left many UK drivers confused when it comes to interacting with devices in their car. That’s why Confused.com teamed up with South Wales police to answer some frequently asked questions around mobile phone driving laws. If caught, drivers could face fines of up to £200 and have 6 points issued on their licence. So it pays to be aware of the current laws, especially as the latest research also reveals that mobile phone use is still a big problem in the UK.
According to a survey of 2,000 UK motorists, more than 2 in 5 (41%) were caught using their phone or other device when behind the wheel last year. And for drivers who have been caught by police in the past, it’s clear that mobile phone distractions are a common problem on UK roads. That’s as driver's most common reasons for being caught were because of reading a text/message (35%), or accepting/declining a call (33%). Around 1 in 3 (30%) were also caught playing a game on their phone. This seems like a huge risk considering breaking mobile phone laws is costing Brits millions in fines. However, data shows that 1 in 3 (34%) are more concerned about the safety implications of using a mobile phone than the actual fine. A further 1 in 3 (33%) also said that there should be more measures in place to catch people using their mobile phone when driving.
But although the laws have tightened in the past 12 months, research by Confused.com also shows that many drivers continue to put themselves at risk. That’s as more than half (51%) of motorists admit to interacting with a mobile phone while driving. And the most common scenarios were when they were waiting at traffic lights (31%) or sat stationary in traffic (28%)
When it comes to certain behaviours, data reveals that London is one of the worst offending regions. The Metropolitan Police reported the highest number of drivers using a mobile phone between January and October 2022, with a total of 5,492 offences. This is higher than the total number caught by all police forces operating in Scotland, who caught 1,196 drivers doing so last year in comparison. This means just 1 area of the UK accounted for 33% of the 16,547 UK drivers caught last year in total. In fact, the number of drivers caught by the Metropolitan Police saw the biggest increase year-on-year since 2019, rising from 4,528 to 5,492 in 3 years.
The research also suggests that more drivers in London are interacting with a mobile phone when driving because they don’t see it as a danger in certain situations. More than a quarter (26%) of motorists in London think it’s okay to use a mobile phone while driving in an emergency. They also think it should be legal to do so when stationary in traffic (26%) or when waiting at traffic lights (24%). But lights change quickly and traffic can start moving again unexpectedly. So you never know when your attention might need to be diverted back to the road. And the research also revealed that more drivers from London admitted to having an accident as a result of interacting with such devices while driving (22%). This was higher than any other region, according to the survey research.
And it’s not just mobile phones that can take your focus away from the road. Over a quarter of UK motorists said they’ve interacted with other devices while driving, such as a sat nav (27%) or touch screen radio (28%). While this may seem less dangerous than using a mobile phone behind the wheel, these devices can still be distracting. And some drivers agree, as around 1 in 5 (21%) think in-car touch screen systems are actually more distracting than mobile phones.
Outside of London, West Yorkshire also had a high number of mobile phone offences. Between January and October 2022, West Yorkshire Police caught 1,005 drivers using a mobile phone when behind the wheel. And Kent County Constabulary weren’t too far behind, catching 836 motorists doing so last year. According to further research, more than 1 in 5 (21%) drivers from Yorkshire and the Humber admitted to interacting with a mobile phone and/or other device while driving. And over a fifth (22%) of drivers from the South East admitted to doing the same.
It’s evident from the research that many drivers across the UK are risking fines. And now with stricter laws around mobile phone use in vehicles, along with many other road laws tightened last year, even more drivers are at risk.
Louise Thomas, Confused.com car insurance expert, says: “It’s clear that mobile phones and other interactive devices are still distracting thousands of drivers across the UK. Especially as over 16,000 UK drivers were caught doing so by police just last year, racking up millions in fines.
“Driving laws are essential for keeping road users safe. And anything that can steal your attention from the road should be avoided, as it’s most likely going to be breaking the law. You may be tempted to check a notification or adjust your location on maps if you end up lost. But the best thing to do in these situations is to pull over in a safe place and turn off your vehicle until you’re ready to go again.
“The rising cost of living is causing motoring costs to increase as it is, so a hefty fine is the last thing drivers need. Especially when fines can easily be avoided by familiarising yourself with road laws. We teamed up with South Wales Police to answer any FAQs around mobile phone use in vehicles. Our guide on mobile phone driving laws should clear up any confusion about the latest driving laws, helping motorists to stay safe on the road.”
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For further information:
Using a mobile phone while driving - the laws and FAQs - Confused.com
Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.
Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.