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Millions of drivers STILL risk crashes by using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel

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Millions of drivers STILL risk crashes by using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel because of a lack of traffic officers and being bored by record congestion, campaigners warn

  • Around 23 per cent admit making calls on a hand-held phone while at the wheel 
  • The habit is particularly widespread among younger drivers aged 17 to 24 
  • The volume of traffic on Britain’s roads rose by 6.5 per cent in the last ten years

Millions of drivers are still using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel because of a lack of traffic officers and boredom caused by record congestion, campaigners warn.

Tough new laws were introduced two years ago after a Daily Mail campaign highlighted a series of deaths caused by drivers talking on the phone or texting.

But almost a quarter of drivers (23 per cent) – the equivalent of just under 10million people – still admit to making or receiving calls on a hand-held phone while driving, the RAC’s annual report on motoring found.

Millions of drivers are still using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel because of a lack of traffic officers and boredom caused by record congestion, campaigners warn

Millions of drivers are still using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel because of a lack of traffic officers and boredom caused by record congestion, campaigners warn

The lethal habit is particularly widespread among younger drivers aged 17 to 24. 

Some 51 per cent in that age bracket admitted to making calls at the wheel.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent of motorists aged under 25 said they checked texts, email or social media while driving, which can increase the risk of an accident by up to 24 times.

7m drink-driving

Some 44 per cent of motorists under 25 took to the wheel while knowingly over the drink-drive limit, research found.

They admitted putting lives at risk by driving either shortly after having a drink or on the following morning.

A fifth of drivers overall took the same risk in the last 12 months – equating to more than seven million motorists, the RAC’s report on motoring found.

Some 23 per cent admitted that they drove after a small alcoholic drink.

A lack of traffic officers and a dramatic fall in roadside breathalyser tests means drivers think they can get away with drink-driving, warn the RAC and AA. 

The survey of 1,753 motorists also found only 15 per cent are following Government advice to keep their phones in their glove compartment – with 25 per cent keeping it on the seat or dashboard.

A quarter of motorists (24 per cent) also admitted keeping their phone’s sound switched on – leaving them vulnerable to dangerous distractions.

Campaigners and MPs warn that declining numbers of police in cars risks undermining the crackdown on phone use at the wheel. 

The number of traffic officers in England and Wales has plummeted by almost 30 per cent in ten years – from 3,766 in 2007 to 2,643 in 2017.

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They blame traffic jam-induced boredom for the epidemic. 

The volume of traffic on Britain’s roads rose by 6.5 per cent in the last ten years, according to the Department for Transport. 

Tim Rogers, of staff representative body the Police Federation, said: ‘Often they’re doing it in traffic, but inattention at any speed is lethal. These people will say they rarely see police on the roads, that they’ve never been stopped by police, so they perceive no risk in doing it.’

The volume of traffic on Britain's roads rose by 6.5 per cent in the last ten years which has contributed to the traffic jam-induced boredom

The volume of traffic on Britain’s roads rose by 6.5 per cent in the last ten years which has contributed to the traffic jam-induced boredom

He added: ‘There’s also a problem with chief constables who cut dedicated traffic officers then claim ‘all our officers are traffic cops’. 

The reality is they’re not. They don’t have the specific training and resources to enforce traffic offences.

Road rage on rise 

Road rage incidents are far more common now than they were ten years ago because today’s drivers are less tolerant of bad driving, campaigners say.

A third of motorists witnessed physical brawls between drivers over the last year, while half had seen verbal abuse, the RAC’s report on motoring found.

The motoring group is blaming the epidemic on our over-reliance on cars for getting around, record congestion and ‘pressures of modern life’.

Spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘Perhaps it is also the case that our tolerance of other people who make mistakes while driving is falling.’ 

‘Why do we accept it is OK for six people a day to die on our roads? It’s certainly not acceptable. We need more traffic police to reduce the number of causalities on our roads.’

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, chairman of the transport committee, said: ‘In 2017, there were 773 casualties – including 43 fatalities and 135 serious injuries – in road traffic collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor.

‘Every one of these casualties could have been avoided if drivers had been paying attention to driving and not their phone.’

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis added: ‘Primarily, the police need the resources to catch offenders in the first place but we also think it’s time the Government and the police looked at technology that can be used to enforce the law.’ 

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