Handheld devices: 43% of drivers weren’t aware of new penalties

RAC research reveals that 43% of drivers weren’t aware of the changes to handheld device regulations – on the day the rules came into law.
Since March, drivers face six penalty points and a £200 fine if they are caught using a handheld phone at the wheel for virtually any reason.
However, most drivers don’t believe it will have a significant effect on improving driver behaviour or road safety.
While most of the 2,000 drivers surveyed by the RAC (75%) are fully supportive of the change in the law, many are sceptical as to how effective it will be in getting offending drivers to change their habits. Just 2% of drivers said they thought it will be ‘very effective’, with 49% thinking it would be ‘partly effective’ and a similar proportion – 45% – saying it won’t be effective.

86% say some drivers will always persist in using a phone illegally regardless of the law.
70% say the problem is drivers don’t feel they’re likely to get caught in the first place.
28% feel not enough will be done to let drivers know about the changes.
20% would like to see cameras used to catch drivers acting illegally.

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis comments: “It’s clear that most drivers are supportive of the law being strengthened to make it easier to prosecute drivers who put lives at risk by using a handheld phone – after all, using a phone to take a photo or look at a playlist is at least as distracting as using it to talk or text.
“But while we welcome today’s law change and very much hope it will make a difference, it’s arguable that 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 of making our roads safer. That explains why such a tiny proportion of drivers – just 2% - think the new changes will be very effective in changing behaviour.
“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.”
Source: Research conducted by the RAC among 2,000 UK drivers between 18 and 21 March 2022