Convictions for using a mobile phone while driving reach seven year high

Number of drivers in England and Wales caught using handheld mobile phone while driving has increased 90 per cent in a year, according to study.

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman texting on her phone whilst driving.
Driving stock PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman texting on her phone whilst driving. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

According to analysis of Criminal Justice System statistics, The AA has found that the number of those convicted for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving increased 90 per cent at the end of 2023, compared to the previous year.

The number of drivers in England and Wales that were caught illegally interacting with a mobile phone jumped from 6,990 drivers found guilty in 2022 to 13,332 drivers found guilty at court for the offence in 2023.

Big changes to the laws surrounding mobile phone use by drivers occurred in 2022, when the rules were tightened to make it illegal to touch a hand-held mobile phone while in charge of a vehicle, and even when stopped at traffic lights.

Before this point, the law stated that it was illegal to make calls and message, but the legal changes came about to close loopholes for those interacting with smartphone-based navigation, scrolling through social media feeds and even streaming video content.

The only legal exceptions now are for calling 999 or 112 in an emergency, making a contactless payment in a vehicle that is not moving or using the device to park your vehicle remotely. Using a Bluetooth headset or voice commands is still legal.

The AA believes that the tightening of the law, coupled with police forces across the country using roadside cameras, converted HGV’s and specifically targeted periods of enforcement have contributed to the rise in convictions.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for The AA, said: “Despite a high-profile change in the law, it seems many drivers are still falling foul when it comes to using a mobile phone behind the wheel.

“While our phones have become smart, it is dumb to play with it when driving. The AA led the campaign for tougher enforcement and strong rules to stamp out this offence, but it seems too many fear missing out on their notifications. The best thing to do is convert the glove box into a phone box and keep the mobile out of reach.”

Elsewhere, the statistics showed that court cases for speeding offences fell by eight per cent in 2023, compared to 2022, while those driving without vehicle tax rose to an all-time high of 99,694 convictions, a year-on-year increase of 94 per cent.

“It is also concerning that driving without tax almost doubled in a year. While too early to tell if this rise is related to the cost of living, the high conviction rates should serve as a deterrent not to dodge paying for a virtual tax disc,” The AA’s Jack Cousens added.