One in five drivers is still using their mobile at the wheel a year after tough new penalties were introduced, according to a new survey from vehicle CCTV specialists SmartWitness.
It means that 7 million motorists are still regularly flouting the law even though it could result in automatic disqualification.
On March 1 last year the Government doubled the penalties to six points on the licence and on-the-spot-fines of £200.
Drivers who get six points within two years of passing their test are automatically banned.
The level of abuse has gone down since the clampdown was introduced – one in four drivers were using their phones while driving at the time the new penalties were brought in.
The most common way drivers break the law is by checking their phones for incoming messages while driving – 21% of motorists admitted doing that.
One in seven drivers (14%) said they still spoke on the phone while at the wheel and answered in-coming calls. Three-quarters of drivers (76%) were aware of the increased penalties.And two-thirds of those surveyed (67%) said they would support a further increase in fines and penalty points to deter future abuses.
The overwhelming majority of drivers breaking the law with phones (69%) only did it when they were stuck in traffic or moving slowly.
Nearly all drivers (92%) ignore their phones when they are driving at speed. Only 8% of drivers have a ‘cradle’ in their cars so they can use their phones hands free and avoid breaking the law.
The results are from a new survey of 2,000 motorists by vehicle CCTV specialists SmartWitness.
SmartWitness chief executive Paul Singh said: “While it is welcome news that fewer drivers are using their phones behind the wheel, these figures are still a huge concern for everyone wanting to improve road safety.
“Studies consistently show that using a mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as drink driving. “Yet 7 million drivers are consistently flouting the law and ignoring concerted efforts to clampdown on the problem.
“The way to tackle this abuse is to make using your phone at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink driving and we all have responsibility to hammer home this point.
“If you know of a driver using a phone or you are a passenger with someone who does this, tell them to stop.”
The results were revealed as new figures show that the number of people found guilty of using a mobile phone at the wheel had plummeted. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show the number of offenders convicted of “using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone while driving” fell by nearly half between 2012 and 2016 – from 22,135 to 11,961.
The drop pre-dates the new penalties and is believed to be down to a fall in the number of traffic officers operating on the roads due to cuts in police numbers.
SmartWitness is the UK’s biggest fleet in-cab camera firm, helping clients to improve safety, eliminate fraudulent cash-for-crash claims and make significant savings on insurance.
In 98% of incidents captured on a SmartWitness camera there are no disputed insurance claims – against the industry norm of 40% for claims without video evidence.
SmartWitness operates a new SmartGuard system for fleet clients where all their drivers are monitored by a professional panel in real-time to pick up on problems such as mobile phone abuse.