Number of drivers caught on mobile phones down by 27 per cent
The number of fines handed out to drivers for illegal mobile phone use in England and Wales fell by 27 per cent last year, new figures show.
Some 38,600 fixed penalty notices were issued by police to offenders in 2018 compared with 53,000 during the previous 12 months, according to Home Office data.
The figure is the lowest since current records began in 2011.
AA president Edmund King said: "It is good to see the number of hand-held mobile phone offences drop by more than a quarter, but we must not be complacent as often drivers are still spotted using phones at the wheel.
"Only a fifth of drivers say there is a visible police presence on their local roads, so a more prominent presence would help to deter the use of hand-held mobiles and texting at the wheel."
Philip Gomm, of the RAC Foundation, said: "The drop in mobile phone use offences could simply reflect shifting priorities across the 43 police forces of England and Wales, with constabularies focusing resources on other types of offending."
Since March 2017, motorists caught using a hand-held phone have faced incurring six points on their licence and a £200 fine - up from the previous penalty of three points and £100.
A recent report by the Commons Transport Select Committee urged the Government to consider banning the use of mobiles in hands-free mode.
It claimed current laws which only proscribe the use of devices being held by drivers gives the ‘misleading impression’ that hands-free use is safe despite it creating ‘the same risks of a collision’.
The Home Office data also shows that the number of fines issued for not wearing a seat belt rose by 17 per cent last year, while there was a five per cent increase in speeding tickets.
Careless driving fines excluding mobile use were up 20 per cent.
Mr King added: "The majority of the 2.1 million speeding offences were caught by cameras. Whilst cameras are a useful tool available to forces to help enforce the law, roads policing cannot be carried out by cameras alone.
"There has clearly been a targeted effort by forces to stamp out people not wearing a seat belt, as the number of fines and points issued is at a two-year high. There is no excuse for not belting up as it can save your life and the lives of others.
"For more than a decade the number of specialist road traffic officers has reduced by a third, so we need more cops in cars to tackle bad behaviour as well as continued high profile and memorable road safety campaigns."