Government survey tracks mobile phone and seat belt usage

Image: RAC

The percentage of drivers using a mobile phone behind the wheel – and those not wearing a seat belt – both appear to have fallen slightly in recent years.

In a roadside observation survey, commissioned by the DfT and Transport Scotland, 1.1% of drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile phone in 2017 – compared to 1.6% in 2014.

The survey also shows a higher proportion of drivers committing the offence in Scotland (2%) compared to England and Wales (0.6%).

Looking at different types of vehicle, 1% of car drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile – compared to 3.3% of taxi drivers and 2.1% of van drivers.

There was also a slightly higher proportion of male drivers (1.2%) than female drivers (1.1%) seen using a mobile.

The observational survey, published on 7 February, also highlights a slight increase in the number of drivers wearing seat belts.

96.5% of drivers were observed using a seatbelt in 2017 – compared to 95.3% in 2014.

93.1% of front seat passengers and 90.7% of rear seat passengers were also observed using a seatbelt.

In terms of vehicle type, 98.6% of car drivers were observed using a seatbelt, compared to 70.8% of taxi drivers.

The problem ‘far from gone away’
Responding to the survey results, the RAC says drivers will be ‘very sceptical of these findings’, adding that ‘the problem has far from gone away’.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “It’s good news these figures show improved compliance with the law in England and Wales, but worrying they were far higher in Scotland.

“It is also important to recognise the vast majority of these surveys were carried out months after the penalty for using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel was increased. It stands to reason the ‘fear factor’ of the tougher penalties would be greater in the time immediately after they were introduced.

“Anecdotally, we still see too many drivers either talking on their handheld phones or interacting with them. And perhaps more worryingly, our own research with drivers suggests the problem has far from gone away.

“As a result we suspect many drivers will be very sceptical of these findings as they don’t reflect what they see on a daily basis.”

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