The number of Brits illegally using their mobiles while driving has soared following cuts to road policing, new research shows.
Nearly a third of drivers (31%) have taken a call at the wheel, according to an RAC survey of 1,714 Brits. The figure has risen from 8% in 2014.
Meanwhile, the number of motorists who confessed to sending a message or using social media while driving rose from 7% to 19%.
Selfie culture also appears to have had an impact on drivers’ habits with 14% of drivers admitting to taking photos at the wheel.
It’s illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving or riding a motorbike in the UK, unless it’s an emergency call and it’s impractical or unsafe to stop.
But the survey indicates that some drivers’ attitude towards using mobiles have relaxed in the last two years.
The proportion of people who think it’s acceptable to make calls on handheld phones has doubled from 7% in 2014 to 14% in 2016.
In a press statement, the RAC drew attention to the sharp fall in the number of road policing officers across the UK over the last five years:
“The RAC has frequently highlighted the problem of a lack of enforcement being a significant factor in the level of driving offences in the UK.
“In particular budget constraints on police forces across the country have significantly impacted roads policing and reduced the ability to catch and prosecute offenders.”
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers outside of London declined by 27% to 3901.
RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams said: “It is alarming to see that some drivers have clearly relaxed their attitudes to the risks associated with this behaviour, but more worryingly is the increase in the percentage of motorists who actually admit to using a handheld device when driving.”
The government is soon expected to publish the results of a consultation calling for the minimum fine for non-HGV drivers using their mobiles to rise from £100 to £150 with penalty points rising from three to four.