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Debate: Should mobile phones be confiscated from drivers caught behind the wheel?

By Mathilda Bartholomew | April 9, 2024

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There are concerns about the growing issue of driver distraction and the need for stricter enforcement.

Debate: Should mobile phones be confiscated from drivers caught behind the wheel?

A recent survey conducted by IAM RoadSmart found that one-third of advanced drivers are in favor of confiscating mobile phones from drivers caught using them while driving. Specifically, 34% of drivers in the UK would support the police confiscating a motorist’s mobile phone upon catching them using it behind the wheel.

The survey, which polled 2,437 IAM RoadSmart members in February 2024, revealed that a third of respondents support the idea of temporarily confiscating mobile phones by the police. However, only 27% believe offenders should have to pay a fine to retrieve their phones.

This potential fine would be in addition to the existing £200 fine and six points on the driver's license. Additionally, 7% support the confiscation of mobile phones by police but think offenders shouldn't have to pay to get their phones back.

When it comes to the current fines imposed on offenders caught using mobile phones while driving, opinions vary. Half of those surveyed believe the current punishment is appropriate, while 42% think the fines are too lenient. Only 4% believe the current penalty is too harsh.

Among those who find the penalties too lenient, 34% suggest an instant six-month driving ban and an unlimited fine as a popular alternative. Another 20% propose a £1,000 fine and six points on a license.

The survey also indicates that driver distraction, such as talking and texting while driving, is perceived as a growing issue, with 62% of drivers saying it's become worse over the past three years. Moreover, 80% consider others' illegal phone use while driving as a threat to their safety.

Regarding road policing priorities, 24% believe that mobile phone usage while driving should be one of the top three priorities for road safety.

IAM RoadSmart's Director of Policy and Standards, Nicholas Lyes, emphasised the danger of using handheld mobile phones while driving and the desire among many drivers for stricter enforcement against offenders.

He stated, "Using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel is illegal and dangerous and many drivers want police forces to prioritise enforcement against these offenders. Moreover, the idea of confiscation of phones and paying an additional fine for its return has the backing of a surprisingly sizeable number of drivers.

“While we are never going to see a cop on every corner, camera technology is already being trialled in some parts of the country and could be rolled out nationally subject to Home Office type approval and the final trial findings.

“We have seen the tragic consequences of drivers using their phones at the wheel in high-profile cases such as that on the M66 where a young driver filmed himself travelling at catastrophic speeds resulting in the death of Frankie Jules-Hough and her unborn child.

“The Government should review the fine level alongside type-approving new camera technology to improve detection. These actions should be supported by a renewed high-profile education campaign highlighting the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving and consider the merits of offering more training courses. We also think social media companies have a responsibility to review policies and remove content as soon as possible when drivers post videos of themselves breaking the law.

“Ultimately, we need to break the cycle of phone addition once drivers get behind the wheel as it is a serious distraction that can have tragic results.”

Where do you stand on the debate? Let us know in the comments below. 

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