Driving offences, particularly those related to using a hand-held mobile phone, are proving to be highly time-consuming for the court system, a situation that needs urgent attention.

The number of drivers caught flouting the law using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel has increased by more than 90% in the past two years.

Reaching a seven-year high, some 13,332 drivers were successfully prosecuted in England and Wales, compared to 6,990 drivers who were found guilty in 2022.

But that’s not the only offence ringing up concern.

Taxing times

While the AA believes the use of roadside cameras, covert HGVs, and targeted periods of enforcement have contributed to the rise, there is a feeling that driving standards are dropping.

“Despite a high-profile change in the law, it seems many drivers are still falling foul when it comes to using a mobile phone behind the wheel,” said Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA. “While our phones have become smart, it is dumb to play with it when driving.”

The AA’s analysis of figures released by the Ministry of Justice also shows that driving without vehicle tax rose to an all-time high of 99,694 convictions, a 94% year-on-year increase.

Similarly, the number of drivers who failed to comply with red lights and signs reached a 12-year high of 11,940 guilty verdicts.

“It is also concerning that driving without tax almost doubled in a year,” continued Cousens. “While too early to tell if this rise is related to the cost of living, the high conviction rates should serve as a deterrent not to dodge paying for a virtual tax disc.”

Got it covered

Elsewhere, court cases for speeding offences fell by 8%, with more than 203,500 guilty verdicts handed to drivers.

In motor insurance cases, driving a vehicle without insurance fell to 71,458 last year (76,390 in 2022), but keeping a vehicle without insurance reached a four-year high (58,690 in 2023 vs 40,392 in 2022).

Drink and drug driving-related cases, seatbelt offences and driving whilst disqualified also remained at similar levels in 2022.

The stats

2022 2023
Offence Proceeded Against Convicted Proceeded Against Convicted
Driving without valid VED 56,311 51,458 107,603 99,694
Using a hand-held mobile phone 7,967 6,990 15,299 13,332
Speeding 235,518 221,972 216,565 203,801
Driving without insurance 82,767 76,390 77,378 71,458
Keeping a vehicle without insurance 47,645 40,392 69,471 58,690
Drink driving 33,290 32,228 30,801 29,709
Drug driving 18,650 17,622 18,609 17,575
Failure to comply with red lights, signs etc 11,443 10,864 12,722 11,940
Driving without due care and attention 15,573 13,399 14,076 12,061
Driving whilst disqualified 9,798 9,312 9,109 8,664
Not wearing a seatbelt 7,304 6,951 6,992 6,574
Keeper not advising who the driver was at time of offence when requested 97,421 89,718 81,860 74,649

Source: The AA


Legal traffic jam

Overall, 732,758 drivers were in the dock for motoring-related offences in 2023, with 672,901 being found guilty – a conviction rate of 92%.

Motoring offences also took up the lion’s share of the court’s time, with three in every five cases being for driving misdemeanours.