The majority of drivers are unconvinced that strengthened laws on phone use at the wheel will make the roads safer.

A loophole had existed where drivers not using phones for telecommunication could go unpunished, or receive only minimum penalties. This would be a maximum of three penalty points and a £100 fine for scrolling through music playlists or taking a photo or video etc.

Laws changed at the end of March this year. Now any use of  mobile phone behind the wheel will be punishable with a minimum six points and a £200 fine.

Little effect

Most of the 2,000 drivers surveyed by the RAC (75%) are fully supportive of the change in the law. However, many are sceptical as to how effective it will be in getting offending drivers to change their behaviour and make the roads safer. Just 2% of drivers said they thought it will be ‘very effective’, 49% think it would be ‘partly effective’, while 45% say it won’t be effective.

Of those with concerns, 86% say that it’s because some drivers will always persist in using a phone illegally regardless of the law.

Seven-in-10 (70%) say the problem is drivers don’t feel they’re likely to get caught in the first place.

Nearly three-in-10 (28%) fear not enough will be done to let drivers know about the changes.

Calling for more help

So what should be done to prevent drivers using phones behind the wheel?

More visible police enforcement (23%), high-profile advertising campaign (24%) and tougher laws (26%) are the common thoughts. The threat of a driver losing their licence altogether if caught could work as a more effective deterrent.

A fifth of respondents (20%) would like to see cameras used to catch drivers acting illegally.

Stronger deterrents

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis, says “it’s clear that most drivers are supportive of the law being strengthened”. However, he believes “it will only be truly effective if it’s rigorously enforced”.

“If some drivers still don’t feel they’re likely to be caught, then simply making the law tougher isn’t going to have the desired effect”.

“The dial really needs to be turned up when it comes to enforcement, and that means police forces having the resources and technology they need to more easily catch those drivers that continue to flout the law. Cameras that can automatically detect handheld phone use exist and are in use in other countries, so we think it’s high time the UK Government evaluated this technology with a view to allowing police forces to deploy it at the earliest opportunity.”

Previous research for the RAC Report on Motoring found that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admitted to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% said they had played a game on a handheld phone while at the wheel.**

See the full report here.