Road safety: driving while using a mobile phone Contents


1.In March 2019 we launched an inquiry into road safety, inviting views on the Government’s current approach and suggestions on what interventions would be most effective at reducing the number and severity of road traffic collisions. Several submissions to our call for evidence highlighted the issue of driving while using a mobile phone as an area of concern.1 Driving while using a mobile phone impairs the ability to drive safely and increases the risk of a collision.2 Using a hand-held mobile phone or other device while driving has been illegal since 2003, but the practice is still troublingly widespread and can have catastrophic consequences. In 2017 there were 773 casualties, including 43 fatalities and 135 serious injuries, in road traffic collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor in the crash.3

2.Concerned about the prevalence of people driving while using a mobile phone, and the tragic consequences this can have, we held a one-off evidence session on the subject with Dr Gemma Briggs, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University, Dr Shaun Helman, Chief Scientist on Transportation and Behavioural Science at the Transport Research Laboratory, and Nick Lyes, Head of Roads Policy at the RAC, to better understand the risks this presents to road safety, and what the Government should do to address this issue.

3.Our session identified three key areas where the Government needed to take action:

a)how the offence is defined in law and the penalties associated with it;

b)how the offence can be better enforced; and

c)how the public can be made aware of the risks and consequences of driving while using a mobile phone.

The central message from our evidence was that if an offence is to be effective: it has to be well-defined and publicised so that motorists know what is and is not against the law and the serious safety risk driving while using a mobile phone poses to them and others; the offence must be backed up with a high enough penalty for motorists to take it seriously; and there must be a serious prospect of offenders being caught. This Report sets out our findings and recommendations in the above areas, for consideration by Ministers.

1 Mark Ellerington (RSA0001), P Whitfield Consulting (RSA0013), Mr Justin Shaw (RSA0016), RAC Motoring Services (RSA0023), Dr Helen Wells (RSA0032) para 3.4, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner (RSA0053) para 1.5, SmartDrive Systems Ltd (RSA0056), Miss Sarah Vaughan (RSA0060) para 3.3.5, Dr Gemma Briggs and Dr Graham Hole (RSA0062), Road Haulage Association (RSA0068) paras 37 and 42, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RSA0080), Direct Line Group (RSA0082) para 17, ITS United Kingdom (RSA0102) para 3.6

2 Dr Gemma Briggs and Dr Graham Hole (RSA0062)

3 Department for Transport, RAS50007: Contributory factors: Casualties in reported accidents by severity, Great Britain, September 2018

Published: 13 August 2019