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Drivers ignore mobile phone laws

Press release: 23/11/2012

  • Just one million motorists have been caught illegally using a hand-held mobile phone when driving since legislation was introduced in 2003 [1]

  • However one in three motorists (33%) admit to still using their handset whilst behind the wheel

  • A fifth of motorists (18%) think it is acceptable to use a hand-held phone when driving regardless of the law

  • Observational research reveals motorists using a hand-held phone while in charge of a vehicle are twice as likely to drive erratically than those not using a mobile

According to data obtained in a Freedom of Information request by LV= car insurance, on average 100,000 [2] motorists are fined for using a mobile phone behind the wheel every year but only a fraction of mobile phone use while driving is actually detected, as one in three (33%) drivers admit to using their phone at the wheel.

Of those who admit to using their hand-held mobile behind the wheel, more than three quarters (77%) will answer calls and half (49%) will text. Many motorists also access the internet on their phones whilst in control of a vehicle, using their devices to look at emails, check directions and to log-on to social networking sites [3].

Using a hand-held phone behind the wheel can be highly dangerous for both the driver and other road users, as findings from an observational roadside study by LV= reveals.

In the study at four cities in the UK, researchers found one in every 20 vehicles was driven by someone using their phone. These drivers were twice as likely as other motorists to be driving erratically and behaviour seen included reckless driving, speeding and sudden braking [4].

These motorists were also much less road aware, with almost one in three (30%) failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing, compared with just one in ten (10%) drivers who were not using a hand-held phone.

In the last 12 months alone more than 350,000 [5] motorists admit have had an accident or come close to having one as a result of being distracted by their mobile phones whilst driving.

The LV= study coincides with the tenth anniversary of the legislation banning mobile phone usage behind the wheel, which seems to have had little impact on deterring offenders. One in five motorists (18%) still think it is acceptable to use a hand-held phone whilst driving, and almost one in 20 (4%) say they think it’s unlikely that they will get caught and admit they are undeterred by the current punishment of three penalty points and a £60 fine.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= car insurance comments: "It's been nearly ten years since legislation banning the use of hand-held phones when driving was introduced, so it's worrying to see that many motorists are continuing to use their devices when on the road. While it can seem tempting for people to use their phones at the wheel, whilst driving they should always pull over to make a call, send a text or browse the internet. By not doing so they risk points, a fine, or even worse causing an accident."

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Notes to editors:

The research was commissioned by LV= car insurance and conducted by ICM and PCP Research. The research was undertaken in two distinct parts.

The ICM research questioned a sample of 2010 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 17 – 18 October 2012. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. All data is weighted to GB population and therefore population figures are estimates. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

The observational study undertaken by PCP took place in four UK cities (Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Manchester) on busy high streets by pedestrian crossings and a busy junction over two six-hour shifts (between 8am-2pm and between noon and 6pm – on a different weekday), and recorded the behaviour of 6,459 motorists.

All 51 police forces in the UK were asked via a Freedom of Information request how many of the following motoring offences were recorded in your force area in the years specified CU80: Using a mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle in the following years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and (so far in) 2012. 40 Police Forces provided figures and 11 forces are yet to respond.

About LV=

LV= employs 5500 people and serves over five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.

Police force

Number of motorists caught using a mobile phone 2012 (YTD)

Metropolitan Police

21,931

Strathclyde Police

19,952

Thames Valley Police

9,639

Greater Manchester Police

6,056

Lancashire Constabulary

4,574

West Yorkshire Police

4,094

West Midlands Police

4,045

Sussex Police

4,000

Hampshire Constabulary

3,808

Nottinghamshire Police

2,995

Police force


[1] According to FOI data obtained from 40 Police forces, 1,009,913 motorists have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel between the year 2003 and 2012
[2] According to FOI data obtained from 40 Police forces, 1,009,913 motorists have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel between the year 2003 and 2012. An average, this works out at 100,991 per year (1,009,913/10)
[3] According to the ICM research, 24% of motorists using their hand-held phone are looking at emails, 30% check for directions 14% log on to social networking sites when driving
[4] The results of the observational driver research revealed that 5% of motorists using a mobile phone when driving displayed erratic behavior, compared to just 2% of motorists not using a mobile when driving
[5] According to the ICM research, there are an estimated 34,274,000 drivers in the UK. Of these, 33% admit to using a mobile phone behind the wheel, which equates to 11,310,420 people. Of these 3% said they have had an accident or nearly had an accident in the last 12 months as a result of using their phone when driving – this equates to 353,000