Police campaigns are delivering thousands of summonses, fines and verbal warnings to drivers caught using their mobile phones at the wheel - but despite widely publicised calls for stronger enforcement, retailers are failing to make the most of the opportunity to sell hands-free accessories.
Police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland issued more than 40 fines an hour during a week-long campaign in November which saw almost 8,000 drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel. They also issued 68 court summonses, delivered hundreds of verbal warnings and identified 117 other distraction offences such as eating while driving.
Police chiefs said the results were ‘encouraging’, and that further week-long campaigns would be planned.
It’s already illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, with penalty points and a fine possible. But campaigners and newspapers have been calling for tougher penalties following incidents such as the ten-year sentence handed down to a lorry driver who killed a mother and three children while distracted by his phone.
Matt Butler, a traffic inspector for Dorset Police, one of the forces involved in the crackdown, told BBC Radio 5 live that it was not yet socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone while driving, but ‘we will get there. Although you may get away with it [using your mobile phone] a few times, sooner or later you are going to have a crash and that crash is going to hurt somebody really badly," he said.
‘So it is not just about 'I've been naughty, I've been caught doing something', it's about the end effect and that is what we need people to remember.’
The Department for Transport announced plans last year to double the punishment for using a mobile phone while driving.
Despite the increased public awareness of the call for stronger enforcement, in a straw poll of retailers, Mobile found no evidence of an uptake in sales of hands-free systems; so either there is still a failing in public awareness, or retailers are missing on what could be an ideal opportunity to up-sell hand-free systems.