Using mobile phones while driving – data, facts and figures

Using mobile phones while driving – data, facts and figures
Using a handheld mobile phone when behind the wheel is illegal and dangerous. However, according to the latest official data, over 6000 drivers were prosecuted for using a handheld mobile phone in the UK in 2021.

More than one-in-five drivers (23%) in the UK cite illegal phone use as their biggest motoring concern, based on RAC survey data of 2,937 drivers in 2023.

Sources: RAC Report on Motoring & Ministry of Justice

How many people use a mobile phone while driving in the UK?

There has been a worrying increase in the number of drivers who admit to regular handheld mobile phone use to make or receive calls, with 12% saying they do this ‘all the time’, ‘most of the time’ or ‘sometimes’ 2023, up from 10% in 2022. A further 13% say they ‘rarely’ make or receive calls in this way while driving.

The RAC Report on Motoring has seen compliance with the law relating to motorists’ mobile phone use increase for all ages from 2022 to 2023.

It should be noted that high levels of media coverage of the issue resulting from its findings in 2016 led to new penalties being introduced in 2017.

However, all age groups except for 25-44 have seen an increase in the number of people making or receiving illegal voice calls when driving.

Statistics for people using a phone when driving in the UK

2023 saw a sharp rise in the proportion of young drivers admitting to illegal phone use, RAC figures show.

mobile phone use ROM 2023

Non-compliance is particularly notable, and rising, among the under-25s: in this age group, almost half (49%) admit to using a handheld phone for calls while driving, up significantly from 34% in 2022 – the corresponding figure for those aged 65 or older is 13%.

Three-in-10 (30%) of under-25s say they have engaged in a video call while driving – almost double the 17% reported in 2022 – while 19% of this group have taken a photo or recorded a video while at the wheel (16% in 2022).

Most drivers who admit to some form of illegal phone use (60%) say they only do so in stationary traffic where, they believe, such behaviour is not very dangerous – despite this still being against the law. A further 12% maintain they can safely hold and use a mobile phone and drive at the same time.

Source: RAC Report on Motoring

How many road deaths are caused by drivers using a mobile phone?

According to the latest Reported Road Casualties Great Britain (2022), 22 people were killed and 674 injured in road traffic collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was considered to be a contributory factor.

Further analysis of the data shows that 4,188 injuries were recorded where there was a ‘distraction in vehicle’, where a mobile device could potentially have played a factor in the collision.

Source: Gov.co.uk

How many people are prosecuted for using a mobile phone while driving a car in the UK?

The latest Ministry of Justice data shows that there were just 6,200 prosecutions for ‘using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving’ in 2021.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this total is significantly lower than a decade earlier in 2011, where the total was 31,400.

Using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving

YearNumber of prosecutions
20216,169
20204,884
201911,402
201813,499
201713,418
201612,586
201517,586
201417,431
201319,650
201224,414
201131,390

Data for 2022 is yet to be released. This article will be updated to reflect the latest information when it is published.

Source: Ministry of Justice

How many drivers admit to video calling while driving?

Young drivers are far more likely to say they have video-called while driving, compared to average.

Concerningly, the number of young drivers admitting to video calling while driving has increased in recent years. In 2020, 18% of those surveyed revealed to doing it – which increased to 30% in 2023.

Over the same time, relating to all drivers, this increased from 8% to 9% over the same time frame.

Source: RAC Report on Motoring

What is the public’s opinion of people who use their phone while driving a car?

The motoring public’s tolerance of mobile phone use at the wheel is low, with 95% of drivers saying people who talk on handheld mobile phones while driving is putting others’ lives at risk, while 85% believe there is never any excuse for using a handheld phone for any purpose while driving.

The public’s view relating to drivers who illegally check their phones while in stationary traffic are less clear cut, however. A third (33%) do not think such behaviour endangers other road users, while 48% believe it does.

In the 2022 RAC Report on Motoring, there was a widespread support amongst drivers for tougher enforcement of the law relating to handheld mobile phone use: 47% think the most effective way of curbing illegal use is the introduction of new camera technology to detect offenders.

So far in the last 12 months, there have been several examples of this technology being introduced.

A further 26% of drivers say more police officers on the road is the answer to this problem. Another 4% believe that dashcam footage submitted to the police to follow-up could also tackle this issue.

Sources: gov.co.uk and RAC Report on Motoring

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