80% of drivers say that giving police the power to seize and destroy the phones of drivers using handheld mobiles while behind the wheel would be a better deterrent than existing penalties.
That’s the finding of a recent survey by the AA which quizzed more than 20,000 drivers to find out how motorists felt about mobile phone penalties.
At present, anyone caught using a phone while driving can be punished with up to six penalty points on their licence and a £200 fine. For drivers who passed their test in the two years before they were caught, they will lose their licence.
Before March 2017, the offence was punishable by just £100 and three penalty points, which meant new drivers were able to keep their licences. However, in a bid to reduce phone use, the government doubled the penalty.
According to the AA, the harsher penalties reduced offending by around half, but the respondents to the organisation’s survey thought more direct punishments involving confiscation or locking of phones would prove a better deterrent.
Of the AA’s respondents, 80% thought the more direct penalty of confiscation and destruction of the phone would prove more effective than the existing punishment.
71% thought the slightly more lenient option of confiscating the phone for a month would also be a stronger deterrent than the current penalty, while almost as many said locking the offender out of the phone would reduce phone use.
60% of those questioned, meanwhile, said not having access to the phone for a week – either through confiscation or locked access – would deter drivers more than the current penalties.
Just over half (52%) also said that giving police powers to name and shame drivers by texting contacts to inform them that the offender has been caught would be more effective than the present fine-and-points punishment.
Edmund King, the AA’s president, said the results showed that people think it is unacceptable to use a phone while driving, and that offenders should be treated “severely.”
“The police do have powers to seize cars driven without insurance and it seems a majority of drivers think similar policies towards using hand-held phones would be effective,” he said.
“The survey result just goes to show the strength of public opinion that using your phone behind the wheel is socially unacceptable and should be treated severely.
“Doubling the fine and points seems to have encouraged some drivers to leave their phones alone. Concerted police targeting and campaigns will help to further change attitudes and behaviour, but it does take time.
“Phones have become indispensable to the lives of millions which increases the temptation for many drivers to look at the screen rather than the road ahead.
“You are twice as likely to crash texting as you are after drinking. Most people wouldn’t think of drink-driving and the same should apply to using a hand held mobile phone on the move. Our advice is for drivers to convert their glovebox into a phone box so that the phone is out of sight and out of mind.”