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Vast majority of drivers often see illegal phone use on the road, poll suggests

The punishment for those caught was toughened in 2017, meaning offenders now face six penalty points and a £200 fine (Alamy/PA)
The punishment for those caught was toughened in 2017, meaning offenders now face six penalty points and a £200 fine (Alamy/PA)

Sightings of handheld mobile phone use by drivers are common on UK roads despite Friday being the 20th anniversary of the practice being banned, a survey suggests.

Some 93% of respondents to a poll of more than 12,000 AA members said they often see other motorists using a phone at the wheel.

Eight per cent admitted to illegal phone use, rising to 14% for those aged 35-44.

Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said they think there is little chance of offenders being caught.

Legislation banning hand-held mobile use while driving was introduced on December 1 2003.

The punishment for those caught was toughened in 2017, meaning offenders now face six penalty points and a £200 fine.

A loophole allowing drivers to escape punishment for hand-held phone use if they were taking a photograph or playing a game was closed by new legislation in March last year.

Department for Transport statistics show 22 people were killed and a further 148 were badly hurt in crashes on Britain’s roads in 2022 where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor.

Concern over mobile phone use by drivers has intensified in recent years following high-profile cases.

Lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years in October 2016 after smashing into stationary traffic on the A34 in Berkshire while distracted by his phone, killing a woman and three children.

Kate Goldsmith, whose 11-year-old daughter Aimee was among the victims, is campaigning for greater awareness of the consequences and stricter penalties for using phones at the wheel.

She said: “The use of mobiles at the wheel has been illegal for 20 years. My daughter Aimee died because of such actions more than seven years ago, yet we still see people on the phone daily.

“I have campaigned for years to highlight the dangers of mobile phone use. I even went out with road traffic officers, telling my story to the drivers they stopped.

“I thought, ‘If I can just save one person, then that’s good enough’.

“But it’s not good enough. Surely, we can do better than that. Take it from me, the consequences of such actions don’t bear thinking about and never disappear.”

AA Charitable Trust director Edmund King said: “It is tragic that 20 years on people are still being killed and seriously injured on our roads due to selfish drivers using their phones.

“Despite high-profile campaigns from ourselves, government and others, the use of phones is still not as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

“This is despite our previous research that you’re twice as likely to crash text driving as you are drink driving.

“You wouldn’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive.”