back to article Police nick 460 a day for using mobiles while driving

More than 168,000 people were fined for using a mobile phone when driving in 2006, a rise of 30 per cent on the previous year. The figures were released today by the UK Justice Department, according to The Telegraph, and show that despite the fact it's been illegal to use a mobile phone while driving without a hands-free kit …


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  1. Phil Endecott

    Still unlikely to get caught

    Maybe some stats wizard out there can extrapolate from this the actual chance of getting caught. Here's my guess: around here, about one driver in 30 seems to be on the phone at any moment in time. So say one in ten drivers uses their phone for a third of the time. That's about 4 million drivers, of whom 186000 are stopped each year. So typically, they'll go about 20 years before getting a £60 fine. That's £3/year. That's not much of a surcharge on top of the call charges, is it?

  2. Tom Kelsall

    Useless statistic

    About one in twenty of the cars I look at has the driver on the phone. I don't think that that has changed since the law came in - I don't think people care.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you have enough spare concentration to talk on a mobile phone while driving then you clearly aren't driving fast enough....

  4. Nano nano

    Cognitive load

    Surely the cognitive load for being on the phone is the same whether using handsfree or not.

    Of course adding the distraction of looking at keys and hitting them is worse again.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Higher than expected

    Considering the amount of people I still see using their phones, I'm suprised that many people are being caught.

    Hopefully if this figure actually becomes well known people will realise the cost of hands free isn't all that much after all.

  6. The BigYin

    Lack of Traffic Police

    Traffic Police in the UK have decimated (well, more than decimated actually) and there are precious few left. They have been replaced by the fake-wannabes (Highways Officers) and camera operators (cash machines). Neither of these do diddly squat to improve safety (speed is only a facotr in about 5-7% of all accidents - according to the government's own figures; although they do like to trot out the 33% myth).

    But H.O.s are cheaper than real cops and speed cameras rake it in for the exchequer, so it's not as if the government cares. Still, they have plans:

    Vision Zero and the Euro III Licensing Directive seem set to remove motorcycles from our roads, and Galileo will provide total observation of all vehicles at all times (cure road pricing, automated fines of all sorts and external vehicular speed control).

    Enjoy your freedom people, to your children it will just be a word in the dictionary.

  7. GrahamT

    @one in 20 drivers on phone

    and about 80% of badly driven cars have a driver with a mobile glued to their ear.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Nano nano

    It's not so so much the cognitive load, as having half the number of hands available for controlling the vehicle that's the problem

  9. DrStrangeLug
    Paris Hilton

    More speed cameras = less police

    "Quite how catching more people using mobile phones, and for careless driving, exposes a reliance on speed cameras isn't made clear." The link (and Mr. Goodwill isn't the first to notice this) is that increases in speed cameras on major roads have reduced the number of in-vehicle patrols - that little robocop in a box has allowed the old fashioned bio-cops to concentrate on non-traffic crimes.

    Paris because even Paris could see that a box that only catches one offence isn't going to catch them all.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @ Bandwidth


  11. Juillen

    Robert Goodwill's gripe

    Is probably the same as mine. All the speed cameras are set up with the great spin of being "all about safety; they make the road SAFE".

    Well, actually they can only be put up when most of the drivers consider the road safe to travel above the speed limit. They can't put them up when most drivers consider it not safe to even reach the speed limit (i.e. if people consider the road unsafe to travel above the speed limit, then you're not allowed to put a speed camera there, where it'd actually be useful. You're only allowed to put it where it'll gather most revenue despite it being pretty safe).

    Speed cameras do little to nothing to affect safety, but they do generate a LOT of revenue.

    Driving with a mobile jammed to your ear is distracting because of posture and having one hand taken up away from the steering wheel (yes, I've seen people with one hand jammed to the ear on the phone turning a corner and changing gear! ).

    So, to put it simply:

    Being on a mobile while driving: Unsafe, illegal, and largely ignored.

    Driving a few MPH over the limit on an empty road: Usually safe, illegal, and clamped down on heavily.

    If the cameras group were really about safety, they'd use camera revenue to fund more roving cars to look out for mobile phone using drivers/dangerous drivers. But hey, that'd not provide all that lovely revenue for doing nothing (apart from putting more cameras in, funded by fleecing drivers using the existing cameras).

  12. Red Bren

    @The BigYin

    "speed cameras rake it in for the exchequer"

    Think of it as a tax on criminality. But a far more effective deterrent for both speeding and other flouting of traffic law would be to revoke drivers' licences until they demonstrate an understanding of the rules of the road by taking the full test again and imprison anyone who drives without a licence/insurance.

  13. Ross

    I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but...

    [though unless the handset is still clasped in their cold, dead fingers, it's not clear how they establish if a hands-free kit was in use]

    ...I'm guessing if you were on the phone at the time, and there's no handsfree kit in the car, you weren't using a hands free kit. Just a guess mind.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Thats a cool £11m a year in fines then

    best 'stupid tax' since the lottery

  15. Mark

    The bigger danger

    Now I will admit to having taken a call whilst driving before, and not once have I been distracted enough cause an accident, but thats me, and as time goes by I know it may happen. But I think there is a bigger danger to motorists on the road....Passengers!

    How many times has the missus been sat next to me having a right old go about something or other, which is really distracting! It takes both hands to give her a proper shaking... What are they planning to do about this? I suggest bubble dome thats the way of the future.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Keep trying...

    Like any crime, people will simply keep doing it if they know there is little danger of being caught and they will continue to do it if the punishment is so little as to be worthless. Personally I think people on phones while driving should be taken out of their cars beaten severely with a baseball bat, so they get some kind of idea what their reckless idiocy will be like for their victims.

    I have been in two very close misses in the last 6 months with the other driver having been on a phone. You bang the horn, shout abuse about being on the phone and all you get is "the bird" flicked back at you. All drivers think we are invincible behind the wheel, but phones just making it ten times worse. Until these people lose loved ones, lose their jobs, no good taking their licenses away, they would still drive anyway, they will simply carry on being a menace and risk to all the rest of the sensible people.

  17. Gav

    Some opinions worth more than others

    Usual tripe from those who gripe about speed cameras. You see; in their opinion it's safe for them to exceed the speed limit which, in their opinion, is too low in certain stretches of road, identified using their opinion. Any attempt to enforce the law on this is simply a method of making money.

    This, of course, is totally different from mobile phone use while driving where drivers decide, in their opinion, that they can use the phone safely without, in their opinion, significantly affecting their driving skills and killing others. Attempts to enforce the law on this aren't nearly robust enough.

    Got that? Mobile phoners opinions are not sound, unlike speeders. And a driver's personal opinion is not the way to determine what's safe... except with speed, cos it's different.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phone while driving

    I live near a large yellow box junction, I regularly see traffic police ignoring people parking across the junction (9 cars being ignored is the current record) people shooting red lights and being on their mobiles, while driving. I was nearly knocked down the other day by a girl on a bike, obviously drunk, cycling on the pavement, swerving off into the road, round a traffic police car and through a red light. The rozzers did fuck all. If this is how effective all traffic police are, not just my local mob, I can see why they are being replaced by machines.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. vic denwood
    Paris Hilton

    Fags & Fones

    A few weeks ago I was followed by a young lady who I could see in my rear view mirror, was using a normal hand held fone in one hand whilst smoking a fag with her other hand. I was so distracted by watching her that my attention to the road ahead was severely diminished. I also could not figure out what part of her anatomy she was using to steer the car!

    Paris 'cos she has the bits for hands-free steering


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do the police routinely check ...

    ... whether or not the driver was listening to the radio/tape/CD at the time of an accident? Now, whilst I'm not suggesting for one minute that there is a real causal link between the two, I have a sneaky suspicion that the figures would be such, that a false one could be inferred.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @red bren

    why don't you just shoot everyone?

    driving above the speed limit is perfectly acceptable under the right conditions, with anticipation and observance and responsibility - FFS the police are allowed to do it. -and even acrosss all conditions, is not a hugely significant factor (5-7%) in road accidents. Why it should be treated as criminal behavious beats me, it is a civil misdemeanour. Criminals intentionally hurt people.

    my concern is that you and others reduce the road safety argument to the one dimension you can control, speed. I can't beleive the recent adverts that say a child hit at 30mph has an 80% chance of survival - FFS the whole point is to not hit them at all, by observation, experience, reactions and a load of other stuff not in your 1-dimensioned world. - this gives the idea that you can drive at 30, eyes on the speedo, and whatever happens next is not your fault !!!

    Fantastic line BigYin:

    Enjoy your freedom people, to your children it will just be a word in the dictionary.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Safety Cameras

    How hard would it be to make a camera that could detect the signal from an active mobile, and take a photo of that?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    M6 crash today

    having seen the remains of an earlier crash involving 7 cars it would be interesting to see all the drivers mobile call doubt some idiot was sending a sms to their M8!

    This is more of a nightmare than using the phone ...I regulaly see people looking down when they should be watching the road.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @"Keep Driving" AC

    Umm, I think you're rather missing the point in your analysis of your near misses.

    The fact that they seemed to know that you were there - and just didn't give a toss, hence the finger - shows that the root problem isn't the phone. That's just a symptom. The root problem is one of attitude and arrogance.

  27. Spleen


    It's true that people make bad judgements. However, that doesn't make government-imposed speed limits any better than the individual's judgement. 60mph on a narrow country lane is safe, but 65mph on a flat open road is dangerous? 70mph on a crowded rain-slicked motorway is safe, but 75mph on an open motorway on a clear day is dangerous? Any 16-year-old on his second driving lesson can make better judgements than that, but we're not allowed to question the absurdity of blanket bans because people find the inevitable conclusion of that train of thought too scary.

    The government's judgement of what is safe is only better than that of an individual's in the sense that a stopped clock tells better time than one that runs five minutes late, since the stopped clock is right twice a day whereas the late one never is.

  28. Steve

    @Some opinions worth more than others

    The difference that you're ignoring is that it is impossible to define a safe speed for a given road, since it varies with circumstances. What may be safe on a clear dry Sunday at 6am could be totally unsafe (yet still legal) on a grey wet Friday at 3pm. If the speed limit (and hence the revenue camera trigger) is set on the high side it will be ineffective, so it tends to be set on the low side. The consequence is that for many roads the camera settings are too low most of the time. A well-trained driver (wishful thinking that there should be no other sort) is capable of making that judgement call.

    A trained traffic cop can also use judgement and decide that booking someone for doing 31 in a 30 zone is pointless, or that someone doing 55 in a 50 zone should be let off with a good bollocking. And, of course, can decide that 25 in a 30 zone at schools-out time is still too dangerous, no matter what the speed limit sign says.

    Instead we have a simple 'x is good, x+1 is bad' model, which causes people to concentrate on x to the exclusion of everything else. It is plain idiocy.

    Phone use, on the other hand, requires concentration, and no driver should ever be giving less that 100% of their concentration to their driving, no matter what the conditions. It's as black & white as driving drunk, and should be penalised in a similar way. What about a 3-month ban for a first offence, 1 year for a second, and take the car & crush it for everytime after that?

  29. Phil Launchbury

    Re: Safety Cameras

    >How hard would it be to make a camera that could detect the signal from an active mobile, and take a photo of that?

    Very difficult. Especially as the mobile in question may not actually be being used for voice but may be downloading (automatically) emails, receiving an SMS or MMS..

    In short - the 'active phone' is not enough.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Tint is the answer

    Personaly i think all cars should be fitted with metailised windows, that way, any idiot wanting to use a mobile phone in one had better have a hands free kit or they will fry thier brains (and other more important bits) out.

    i also think people should have the right to use personal jammers, (this will then allow others to remind the idiot using the phone that they got caught doing something dangerous) as apposed to being caught and given a slap on the wrist by the cops.

    (i support a mandatory £3500 (with no wiggle room on the amount and if its a company car the company should be equally fined as well, that will prove a more effective diss-insentive for company phones) fixed fined and points for those getting caught using a mobile whilst driving a vehicle).

    I also think GPS/GSM-3G tracking devices should be banned, as they chuck out to much RF (if you cannot trust your staff then don't employ them).

    mines in the car...... the one with lots of suspicious antenna sticking out the roof(but without the hands free car kit)


  31. James Pickett
    Thumb Down


    The figures would be a lot higher if they took any notice of the public. I was moved to report a man in a yellow Megane who was taking on petrol near me. He got in the car, started making a call and drove off with the phone clamped to his ear, using his other hand to secure his belt while steering with what I hope were his knees. I was the next car away and followed him for a couple of minutes that included a traffic light stop, enabling me to write down his number. I reported this to the police who said that they couldn't do anything as I wasn't a police officer!

    I pointed out that he was on the forecourt CCTV and that since they had the exact time and place, they would be able to corroborate the call details, but I got a wearily apologetic no - apparently it happens all the time.

  32. Guy
    Thumb Up


    and the other 20% either have a drainpipe instead of an exhaust or a BMW badge

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Kill the bastards...

    I'm sick and tired of the same old rubbish which is trotted out when this subject is raised.

    "it's only a stealth tax"

    "talking on the phone and driving is no more dangerous than doing anything else in the car"

    "I know how fast I can drive safely"


    Get yourself a cycle, motorbike or scooter...ride it for a few weeks and THEN tell me that people are good drivers and should be able to drive how they like unabated.

    The fact is that there is a large number of motorists who have no consideration, no manners, no thought for anyone else. They also feel that they are untouchable.

    If I was a violent person, then the next tosser who nearly killed me because of their shoddy attitude to driving would get a shoeing. But I'm I'll just have to put up with it won't I?

  34. Phil Endecott

    Re: Reporting

    > police who said that they couldn't do anything as I wasn't a police officer!

    Yes, I've had the same response. Curiously, if I see someone breaking in to the house across the street and phone the police, they don't reply "sorry sir, we can't take any action unless a police officer saw it". Ditto if I see someone "behaving suspiciously" on the tube, where I'm urged to report it. Why not this?

  35. Darren Lovell

    @ By Red Bren

    Agreed. Fining people for using their phone is not the answer and I'm sure the government is fully aware of this. They can simply tax people for breaking the law this way and bleed bad drivers dry.

    The best way to deal with it would be to hit the offender with a revocation of their licence and force them to retake their driving test after a given time period. Anybody who drives while their licence is revoked should face a prison sentence/criminal record and have their vehicle impounded.

    With so many people's livelihoods depend on owning and driving a car, something that threatens that livelihood if they drink-drive or use their phone can't be a bad thing since it'd probably make them think twice about doing it.

    I was delighted to hear about that woman who was given a prison sentence a few weeks ago for killing that lad whilst text-driving. I think it was lenient for her to be convicted of causing death by dangerous driving - it should have been manslaughter (I wouldn't call it murder since it wasn't premeditated).

  36. Alex

    Towing the party line again...

    Honestly, does the reg investigate anything these days or is it that much easier just to report within the narrow framework of the establishment?

    The law making mobile use without a handsfree kit actually has a lot in common with speed cameras:

    1. It was introduced to improve conviction rates, and is successful in that aim.

    2. It has no proven effect on road safety.

    3. The real dangerous activities were already illegal (covered by careless driving, DWDCA etc), so the new measures weren't needed, but police somehow managed not to bother to enforce the existing laws, conveniently making way for more profitable and broad-spectrum (criminalize everyone!).

    In your article you manage to:

    1. without evidence, challenge the suggestion that over-reliance on speed cameras is related to lack of enforcement in other areas (since law-enforcement is stats-driven, the link is very clear)

    2. accept the assertion that a blind enforcement of a blanket law is a good idea, without any attempt to consider the alternative view.

    Carry on like this and you'll be on Teflon Tony's christmas list next year.

  37. Red Bren

    @Kevin @@red bren

    "why don't you just shoot everyone?"

    Because I'm not a Daily Mail reader and I prefer the punishment to fit the crime.

    "driving above the speed limit is perfectly acceptable under the right conditions..."

    You're joking, right? If not, check Highway Code 124 - "You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limits for the road and for your vehicle" No caveats about anticipation, observance and responsibility.

    "FFS the police are allowed to do it."

    Traffic police go through additional training and assessment before they are allowed to do this. And they also have these flashing blue lights & sirens to warn other road users of their approach.

    "and even acrosss all conditions, is not a hugely significant factor (5-7%) in road accidents."

    Can you quote a source for your statistic? Even if speed in itself is not the cause of accident, it certainly has an effect on the outcome.

    "Why it should be treated as criminal behavious beats me, it is a civil misdemeanour. Criminals intentionally hurt people."

    Ever heard of criminal negligence? As a motorist, you're in charge of a potentially lethal blunt instrument and you have a duty of care to others around you. And do you think the bereaved would be consoled by the thought that their loved one was unintentinally killed?

    "my concern is that you and others reduce the road safety argument to the one dimension you can control, speed."

    But speed is just about the only dimension that can be practically controlled. Red light jumping is the only other I can think of. Admittedly, there are plenty of other factors in road safety, but surely it makes sense to use automation where possible, allowing other scarce resources to be more effectively targetted?

    "I can't beleive the recent adverts that say a child hit at 30mph has an 80% chance of survival - FFS the whole point is to not hit them at all, by observation, experience, reactions and a load of other stuff not in your 1-dimensioned world."

    But not every driver will have your (self-assessed) level of driving skills and will often find themselves tailgated (and distracted) because they're going "too slow" for a more "experienced" driver's liking, even when doing the speed limit. Of course, you could argue that if their skills are so poor, they shouldn't be on the road, but then, why not just shoot them?

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Bad Logic and CBA

    OK so we all want to drive faster because we get where we are going faster and its more fun. However, those who attempt to rationalise that desire into a belief that speed limits should be abandoned and most commonly into indignation about speed cameras are using flawed logic

    It may be "safe" to travel at 75mph in many conditions but it can't be "safer", there must be a slightly elevetaed risk of you causing an accident. So lets apply the rules used to make road regulatory decisions, namely cost benefit analysis.

    OK so the benefit of you averaging 75mph rather than 70 on a 70 mile journey is that you arrive 6 minutes 40 seconds early, having had a bit more fun. OK so that time at an arbitary £100 per hour (let's say you are a well paid lawyer or you get a real kick out of speed) is worth £11.11.

    So now the cost. Let's say there is a 1 in million greater chance that you kill a another road user (for reference there are c30,000 serious injuries on UK roads every year and c3k deaths)

    So by claiming the right to drive at 75mph you implicitly value my or my childern's life at c11m. Now that may seem like a lot. Your insurance company won't pay me or my estate that much. But are you really going to look me in the eye and tell me that my 4 year old little boy was worth less, or that it was a "fair bet" for your £11 of joy?

    The benefits of restricing everybody to a sensible speed for average conditions clearly out weigh the costs however annoying that may be.

    And yes I'll be driving at 55mph round the North Circ tomorrow morning, but at least I'll be feeling slightly guilty and won't be spouting all this misplaced righteous indignation about speed cameras.And if they stick a gps tracker in my car in 2012 I won't be complaining. Hard to argue with it if it saves only 75 lives a year (5% of 3,000) (Privacy? well I already have a mobile so it's moot)

  39. Tim Bates
    Thumb Up

    Down under

    I wonder how we compare in Australia. Most states have had laws against this since before phones became a common device (back when they were still a tool more than a toy)...

    Yet we seem to have plenty of stupid people who think they can control a car while talking on a phone.

    Oh, and to answer the question someone asked... A proper wired in handsfree makes a big difference. It feels more along the lines of simply talking to a passenger, and takes a LOT less concentration. Plus the other hand is freed for driving.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Camera Operator Strike

    We had a well publicised speed camera operator strike. It lasted a week or more. No images were processed. No fines were issued, drivers got to do what they pretty well liked. Guess what? The road toll/accident rate was the same the week preceeding the strike, during the strike and after the strike. Therefore, speed camera have little or no effect on road safety. It could even be argued that some drivers knowingly sped more during the strike.

  41. Merlin

    Speed not a major factor? What?

    Have a chat with a good driver (no, you're not one) if you think that speed is only a minor cause of accidents. Go through your list of what you think causes accidents and for each one ask yourself: "If I had been going a bit slower (say, below the speed limit) could I have stopped in time". A recent chat with a police advanced driving instructor convinced me that speed causes virtually all acidents.

  42. Neil Jones

    @AC (Bad Logic...) & Red Bren

    Nicely put both of you. Speed limits are set by law. You break the law, you pay the price. You might not agree with the law, but that’s a different issue. It’s not a principal of UK law that you only have to comply with those laws you agree with.

    Yes, like the majority of drivers you think you’re a better than average driver and are qualified to make a decision that the speed limit is inappropriately low to the road conditions and your driving skills, but you’re just as positive of this as that as the Chav doing 60mph through a 30mph built-up area is. Basically, take anyone who’s just had an accident back in time by 10 seconds and I guarantee that they’ll feel they’re driving perfectly safely.

    And yes, I do also exceed the speed limit. But before you call me a hypocrite I also accept that if I get caught, I will be punished. I won’t somehow feel hard done by or some great sense of injustice. I know the rules as we all do. Let’s be grown up and play by them.

  43. Pete

    Figures are misleading

    I lost 3 points and £60 of hard earned cash for using a mobile whilst *stationary*, by the side of the road with the gear in neutral and handbrake on. The rozzer arresting me said that you can be considered as driving the car if the keys are in the ignition and the engine doesn't even have to be running. *This* is how their figures are up, bored coppers ticking boxes rather than being used intelligently to prevent real street crime. Funny how they were quick to nick me but in the 3 times my car has been broken into they did naff all about it apart from issue an incident number, likewise when my brother was given a kicking by a bunch of howling chavesque gristlebrains.

    Oh, and what next in the "distraction" stakes? Will the stereo/radio be considered a dangerous distraction soon? Perhaps passengers? We'll be driving 1 seater cars soon if it goes this way and then buses and the urge to use public transport will go right out of the window.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enjoy your freedom people, to your children it will just be a word in the dictionary. least they have a better chance of survival if the prats out there on the roads are made to stop putting other people's lives in danger.

    If you're not doing anything wrong, what does it matter if you're being watched on the roads.

    You act like it's it's such a serious breach of rights to be punished for breaking the law and RISKING KILLING SOMEONE ELSE.

    Just grow up Wolfie.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC Bad Logic et al

    Zomg - THINK OF TEH CHILDR0N!!!!!1one

  46. Anonymous Coward

    here we go again...

    All the above is just another reason for some bright person to come up with a means of blocking mobile signals. I'd add cars to the long list of buses, trains, restaurants, cinemas, concert halls, theatres, etc etc where calls to/from mobiles are either dangerous or annoying...

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