Drivers using mobile phones were responsible for 33 deaths on Britain’s roads last year, according to new figures.
There were a total of 1,793 people killed in vehicles and the number of those dying as a result of a driver being distracted by a phone has risen.
Figures released by the Department for Transport also shows a worrying trend of an increasing number of people being killed because they are not wearing a seatbelt.
More than a quarter of those who died on the roads (27%) did so because they were not restrained.
Today road safety campaigners said more is needed to be done to stop the hundreds of deaths, claiming that it should be a ‘wake-up call to the British government.
Using a hand held phone behind the wheel is illegal in the UK and new deterrents were introduced in March last year.
What is the law on using a mobile phone?
It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. You must have hands-free access, such as:
- a bluetooth headset
- voice command
- a dashboard holder or mat
- a windscreen mount
- a built-in sat nav
The device must not block your view of the road and traffic ahead.
You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted.
The law still applies to you if you’re:
- stopped at traffic lights
- queuing in traffic
- supervising a learner driver
This doubled the previous penalty and being caught using a mobile phone while driving now carries a penalty of six points and a £200 fine.
At the time Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the penalties would act as a ‘strong deterrent’ to mobile users but an RAC poll earlier this year found only 36% of people were aware of what the rules are.
Earlier this month two devastated families put out a video of a fatal crash that killed a mother and three children to highlight the dangers of using a phone while driving.
When you can use a phone
You can use a hand-held phone if either of these apply:
you’re safely parked
you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop
In 2016, there were 32 deaths on the roads but 33 people were killed last year despite the new penalties.
Overall the number of serious accidents, slight accidents and total accidents caused by mobile phone use has fallen year on year.
In 2016, there were 105 serious accidents, 341 slight accidents and 478 total accidents.
The respective figures for 2017 were 90, 308 and 431.
The overall number of people killed on Britain’s roads in 2017 was 1,793 including 787 in a car.
This was one more total death than in 2016 and was fractionally lower than the 2010-14 average of 1,799.
There were a total of 170,993 casualties of all severities in 2017. This was 6% lower than in 2016 and the lowest level on record.
Penalties for using a mobile while driving
You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving.
You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years.
You can get 3 penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.
You can also be taken to court where you can:
be banned from driving or riding
get a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or bus)
AA president Edmund King said that progress in reducing road fatalities had been stalled for ‘far too long’ and ‘more effort is clearly needed to improve safety across the UK for all road user.’
He called for a target which aimed to reduce annual road deaths to zero in 10 years and improved “driver education, police enforcement and indeed engineering of some of our most dangerous roads.’
RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams said that road fatality levels remained ‘stubbornly high’.
He said: ‘It also remains the case that casualties among some vulnerable road user groups, specifically pedestrians and motorcyclists, are rising which is a concern.
‘Speed limit compliance also remains a real problem, with more than half of vehicles recorded speeding on 30mph roads and nearly one-in-five drivers travelling at 30mph or more in a 20mph zones.
What is the law on seat belts and car seats?
You must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in the seat you’re using.
There are only a few exceptions such as being a driver when reversing or having a signed medical note to exempt you.
You are only allowed one person in each seat fitted with a seat belt.
Failure to wear a seat belt carries a minimum penalty of £100, and can be up to £500 if the case goes to court.
You must also make sure that any children in the vehicle are in the correct car seat for their height and weight.
They must be in a seat until they reach 135 centimetres in height or their 12th birthday – whichever comes first.
After that they must wear a seat belt and the adult driver can be fined up to £500 if they don’t.
‘With traffic levels rising, and people’s dependency on the car also increasing, a shift in focus is needed at both national and local levels to begin to tackle the problem’.
Joshua Harris, director of road safety charity Brake, said: ‘Today’s figures highlight the shocking lack of progress on road safety improvement in Britain and must be a wake-up call to the Government to take action now.
‘Progress on British road safety has stagnated and yet the Government sits on its hands and rejects the introduction of policies which are proven to save lives.’