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Motorists call for tougher penalties for drivers using a mobile phone

15th February 2010

  • Nearly half a million drivers have penalty points for mobile phone offences
  • Almost 700,000 motorists surf the net and check emails while driving

Following news that the government is considering harsher penalties for motorists who use a mobile phone while driving, research by Direct Line reveals that over two thirds (69 per cent)* of British motorists would support measures to increase the number of penalty points or increase fines for drivers caught using a mobile while behind the wheel.

Previous Direct Line research has shown that drivers’ reaction times are 30 per cent slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone compared to being at the legal drink drive limit behind the wheel and nearly 50 per cent slower than when driving under normal driving conditions**.

Under current legislation, motorists convicted for using a mobile phone while driving receive three points on their licence and are issued with a £60 fine. Nearly half a million motorists*** (1.5 per cent) have received penalty points for a mobile phone offence since the penalties were introduced in February 2007. In total, nearly one in ten (9 per cent) motorists who have penalty points has received points for a mobile phone offence.

However, the number of motorists convicted of a mobile phone related motor offence is still in stark contrast to the number who actually uses a handheld mobile while behind the wheel. The research shows that nearly a sixth (16 per cent) of motorists admit they have made or received calls on a handheld phone while driving over the past 12 months.

Furthermore, on top of this number who admit to making and receiving calls whilst driving, nearly 700,000 motorists (2 per cent) are using their phones to surf the internet and check emails while behind the wheel, as iPhones and PDA devices become increasingly popular.

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting at Direct Line, commented: “While its clear that the penalties for driving while using a mobile are being enforced, more needs to be done to deter motorists from this dangerous practice, as our figures show that there is a wide disparity between those admitting to use and those convicted of use. Too many people are either still unaware that using a mobile phone can be a major distraction to their concentration while driving, or are simply ignoring the rules of the road.”

The research goes on to show that if those motorists who have received penalty points for a mobile phone offence had been subject to a harsher penalty of six penalty points on their licence rather than the current three points, nearly half (47 per cent) of these drivers would now have at least nine points on their licence and could be facing a ban for a further offence.

Andy Goldby added: “It appears to be primarily those motorists who already flout speed restrictions and other rules of the road that are being caught using a mobile phone while driving, and speeding while using a mobile phone is a potentially lethal combination. If tougher fines and penalty points are introduced, these motorists may start to think twice before making phone calls while behind the wheel. The drivers that we spoke to when conducting the research would most definitely like to see these inconsiderate drivers penalised further for their selfish and dangerous driving habits. Direct Line would support harsher fines and more points as a way of keeping the roads safe.”

Looking for cheaper car insurance? Visit directline.com for a car insurance quote and see how much you could save.

For further information, please contact:

Vicky Perry
Direct Line
Tel: 0208 313 5741
Mobile: 077909 57338
Email: Vicky.perry@rbs.co.uk

Notes to editors

*Direct Line research commissioned with Opinium Research in an online poll of 1,441 British drivers from 26th to 28th January 2010.
**Direct Line research study commissioned with Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), 2006
***1.5% of 33million motorists in GB (ONS) = 495,000 motorists

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com