by Fatima Rokib, Niamh Lynch and Anna Parker
A freedom of information request sent to the UK Driving Standards Agency has found a staggering number of people are still using handheld devices while driving.
SR News has received information from the UK Driving Standards Agency concerning the endorsements, offences and penalty points received from January 2016 – December 2018.
The report showed a grand total of 88,410 motorists received a CU80 endorsement (driving offence) in this timeframe; 83,123 motorists were issued with penalty points in this same period. However, these figures decreased by 50 per cent in 2018, indicating that tougher laws are proving effective.
Driving while using a mobile telephone was first made illegal back in 2003 and, despite the punishments becoming more severe every year since then, motorists still continue to endanger their own lives as well as the lives of other people on the roads.
A report showed that as of 2006, a motorist was issued with a driving fine every hour for driving while on their phone.
These actions were introduced as a result of fatalities and serious accidents caused by the use of handheld devices. In a ten year span from 2008 until now, more than 200 people have been killed on UK roads as a result of people using their mobile phones.
An ex-southern ambulance driver, who has personal experience with working the scenes of traffic collisions, said: “It’s frightening to think that, after the amounts of crashes and deaths on the roads each year, some people still believe themselves to be above the law and continue to use mobile phones, well aware of the risk they pose to themselves and to others.
“People don’t seem to realise the implications they could have on someone’s life when they choose to pick up a mobile phone when they are driving. No text message or phone call is important enough to risk your own life, or the life of someone else’s for that matter. Always wait until you are parked in a safe place before using your phone.”
According to reports by the Department of Transport, approximately 24 people are killed every year in the UK in collisions in which the driver of the offending car was using a mobile device.
The reports do not state whether the person killed in the accidents was a driver, a passenger or in fact other motorists involved in the collision. The idea behind not revealing this being that using a mobile phone while driving can be dangerous for everyone, not just the user.
Northumbria Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, have been extremely vocal in their support for stricter laws surrounding mobile phone use while driving.
Motor Patrols Chief Inspector Dave Guthrie, of the Operations Department, said: “We will have proactive patrols in place across the region to help catch anyone using their phone behind the wheel.
“A motor vehicle in the wrong hands won’t just kill one person, it could kill half a dozen in a split second.”
Last year 473 traffic crimes were recorded in Sunderland city centre which is approximately 42% more than figures from 2016. Northumbria Police dealt with more than 500 mobile phone offences in 2016 before new laws were introduced. Figures for 2017 have not been released at the time of writing this article.
Imar Ahmed Umar, 30, Croft Avenue, Sunderland who received a 12-month driving ban for using a handheld device while driving recalled the event for SR News. She said: “I was driving my car when my friend called me and instantly I answered, little did I know that something drastic was about to happen.
“I was stopped by police officers as was caught red handed just near Chester Road for using a mobile phone while driving, and I got an automatic fixed penalty notice.
“Having previous penalty points, I was banned from driving for a whole year and as devastated as I was I knew it was solely my fault.”
In 2016, a total of 50 drivers were disqualified, 164 drivers in 2017, and this year up to April 24 drivers have been disqualified from driving.
Sujona Begum, 40, an instructor at Inspire Driving School, Sunderland said: “As an instructor, I feel drivers should be disqualified for at least six months for using their phone as the consequences could be devastating.
“However, we do emphasise that ADI (Approved Driving Instructors) are not allowed to use their phones whilst with a learner in the car.
“My advice is to motorists are no phone call is more important than your own safety. Pull up and park to answer any calls, calls can wait not lives.”
A recent RAC report revealed that 31% of British drivers admit to using their phone behind the wheel; this is compared to only 8% in 2014. 14% of people admitted that they use their mobile phone to take pictures whilst driving, whilst 20% admitted that they still check their social media even when in the car.
Play along with our quiz to test your knowledge of how much you know about the consequences of using a mobile phone while driving.