500,000 Motorists Use Mobile Phones While Driving, Study Shows

A new UK survey conducted by the Department of Transport shows that 300,000 car-owners and 160,000 goods vehicle drivers use their mobile. According to the study, the worst are drivers of trucks and vans.

As using hand-held mobile phones behind the wheel is against the law, most drivers risk a £60 fine and three penalty points, but most of them don’t seem to care. Moreover, any motorist that causes a fatal crash while talking on the phone will get five years in prison.

If the police or the driver chooses to take a case to court rather than use a fixed penalty notice, the maximum fine is £1,000 (£2,500 for drivers of vans, lorries, buses and coaches).

The penalties were raised to this level in February 2007, when a number of research reports identifying the danger of using any mobile phone while driving.TRL Ltd's report for Direct Line Insurance, for example, demonstrated it is even more dangerous than drunk driving. At that time, several campaigns were initiated to raise awareness of both the change of the penalties and the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.

However, these penalties didn’t seem to keep drivers from talking on the phone in traffic. Lib Dem transport spokesman Norman Baker said: "The message is clearly not getting through. Despite tougher penalties a frightening number of drivers still use their mobile."

Motorists on the phone or those who send text messages while driving are blamed for the increase in dangerous and distracted driving, which in most cases leads to serious crashes.

According to The Sun, convictions rose by 10,000 to 43,525 in 2007. Automobile Association road safety boss Andrew Howard estimates 100,000 drivers are on the phone at any one time. He said: "We need to change social attitudes to the car phone and increase the likelihood of being caught."
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