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Using mobiles at the wheel: The offence countless people know is wrong – but many admit to committing

New research into attitudes towards mobile phone use behind the wheel suggest it’s a crime the vast majority would welcome much stronger penalties and punishments for – despite the very same people admitting to committing the offence themselves.

Punishments are due to become greater in 2017 as drivers caught on their mobiles will face fines of up to £200 (up from £100) and as many as six points on their licence (up from three points at present).

Such is the scale of the problem on the UK’s roads, nine in 10 motorists surveyed by personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors claimed to witness other drivers breaking the law and using their mobile phone behind the wheel every day.

It appears to have led to widespread support for the issue to be tackled with stronger punishments, with more than 80 per cent of people questioned saying they would support even stricter penalty points being imposed than those to be introduced next year, higher fines and even instant bans for drivers caught in the act.

However, many of the very same people who say they would back stronger penalties could end up facing the stronger punishment themselves unless they change their ways, as less than half of the same people questioned (43%) could honestly say they never used their phone at the wheel.

Almost a third (30%) admitted either using their phone every time they drove, or most of the time they were behind the wheel, over the past 30 days.

Worryingly, one in five also admitted to thinking it is safe to do so in certain scenarios, with the majority saying they looked at their phone at red lights or in ‘stop and go’ traffic.

Drivers understand dangers but still take the risk of using mobile phones

Jane Woodcock, head of personal injury at Hudgell Solicitors, has helped support many people who have suffered catastrophic and life-changing injuries after road traffic accidents.

She believes the survey results suggest many drivers see and understand the dangers, but wrongly believe they are capable of flouting the laws and staying safe when not in free-moving traffic.

The results are very interesting and suggest that many people are making their own judgements as to what is acceptable use of a mobile at the wheel and what isn’t,” she said.

It seems that many people think its fine to take out their mobile if stood at traffic lights, or when the traffic is slow and they are not moving far, but nothing could be further from the truth.

It is statistically proven that even using a hands-free drastically reduces concentration levels, and that concentration levels drop in the minutes after a phone call. Any use of a mobile phone is going to reduce the concentration and focus you place on the main task at hand.

The law is that you don’t use your phone when at the wheel in any circumstance, it is as simple as that. You don’t take your seatbelt off at traffic lights or in slow-moving traffic, so why pick up your phone.

It is clear from the number of people supporting stronger penalties that the vast majority of people know and accept any use of a mobile is highly dangerous and needs stamping out.

It has been suggested that the ‘fear of missing out’, which leads to so many people constantly checking their phones for emails and notifications on social media accounts, is playing its part.

Perhaps these are people who know they are doing wrong but need the threat of stronger penalties to force them to stop taking the risk, and to accept that anything on their phone can wait.

Drink-driving was still considered to be the most dangerous of driving offences by those questioned (45%), with using a mobile phone considered the second most dangerous (21%). One in five believed speeding to be the biggest threat to safety on the roads.

Hudgell Solicitors has been campaigning as part of the national Road Safety Awareness Week, spearheaded by road safety charity Brake, for drivers to ‘switch off’ from their mobiles when behind the wheel.

It has also urged people to turn their mobile from a distraction into a possible life-saver by using the ‘Medical ID’ facility on Apple iphones, which would enable emergency services access to key health information of the phone owner by simply turning it on and accessing the details direct from the home screen.

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