Using a handheld phone while driving has been an offence in the UK since 2003.
Yet every day motorists are putting the safety of themselves and others at risk by using one.
And the problem has got worse. As our dependency on our smart phones has increased, the temptation to use a phone for all sorts of activities – not just phone calls – has increased too.
The RAC highlighted the extent of the problem in September 2016. Data from our annual Report on Motoring showed the proportion of people who admit to using a handheld phone at the wheel increased to 31% in 2016, compared to just 8% in 2014. And the percentage of drivers who feel it is safe to check social media on their phone when in stationary traffic, either at traffic lights or in congestion, increased from 14% in 2014 to 20% in 2016.
This behaviour is causing accidents, and costing lives. In the five years to 2015, at least 2,100 accidents were directly caused by drivers using a mobile phone. This is probably an underestimate of just how big the problem is. And last year there were at least 22 fatal accidents – unchanged on the figure in 2011.
We have already helped make a change – the Government swiftly announced stronger penalties for those caught following the findings of the RAC Report on Motoring in 2016. But there is much more that needs to be done.
As the motorist’s champion, the RAC is committed to playing its part in changing driver behaviour – by encouraging all of us to Be Phone Smart.
The Be Phone Smart campaign – what we advocate
- Greater individual responsibility – individual motorists should make a commitment to themselves, their friends and family, not to use a handheld phone while driving
- Better enforcement of the law – We believe in effective enforcement of traffic laws. 61% of motorists tell us there are not enough full-time roads police enforcing laws. We understand resources are tight and we welcome more targeted initiatives from police forces to achieve better compliance with the law and make offending drivers believe they will be caught
- Better awareness of the risks of handheld mobile phone use at the wheel – this includes a national THINK! campaign, planned for this year, a greater focus within driving lessons and the driving test on the dangers of distractions when driving
- Best practice among businesses – appealing to businesses to ensure their current policies around mobile phone use are effective and are being adhered to
BePhoneSmart.uk – where motorists can make a promise to not use a handheld phone at the wheel
Getting drivers to take greater personal responsibility for how and when they use their phone is crucial in cutting illegal use.
Launching 1 March 2017, and with the support of the Government’s THINK! road safety campaign, BePhoneSmart.uk gives drivers the chance to make a promise – to themselves, their family and friends and their employer – that they won’t use a handheld phone while at the wheel.
Drivers who make the promise can quickly share it across their social media profiles – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and in doing so encourage others to do the same. There is also an option for them to upload a photo of themselves, add the Be Phone Smart logo and share this.
We will be engaging a wide variety of stakeholders, plus Ministers and Members of Parliament, about the website and broader campaign.
How you can get involved: help spread the word about the promise website via your online communication channels to encourage as many UK motorists to Be Phone Smart as possible. Become an advocate: we are happy to feature your logo on the site, and share our campaign logos for you to feature on your own site. If you are interested in finding out more about our campaign, or would like to support it, please email our team today: BePhoneSmart@rac.co.uk