Research reveals where drivers are using their phone at the wheel

Drivers using their phone

Using your phone and driving is highly illegal and ill-advised, but that doesn’t stop a shocking number of us risking a £200 fine and six points on our licence.

But where in the UK are you most likely to find a driver using a mobile phone at the wheel? New figures reveal all.

London calling

Drivers using their phone

Unsurprisngly, London is the worst place for people using their phone while driving. The City of London and London Metropolitan constituencies lead with a respective 1,427 and 228 fines per capita.

It’s been reported that one in two drivers will use their phone while stuck in traffic, even though that remains illegal. Yes, even when stationary.

In the City of London, there’s a police officer for every 15 civilians in the area. Contrast that with London Metropolitan’s one officer for every 258 civilians. It begs the question, how many people are really using their phone behind the wheel elsewhere, without being caught?

Cheshire, West Mercia and Suffolk/Norfolk follow in third, fourth and fifth, with a respective 181, 164 and 154 fines per capita. Essex, Thames Valley, Merseyside, Hampshire and Warwickshire span between 150 and 121 fines per capita.

Phones and driving: The least fines per capita

Drivers using their phone

What about the least fines per capita? That honour goes to Avon & Somerset (37), with Nottinghamshire (40), South Yorkshire (42), Wiltshire (42), Leicestershire (43) and Northamptonshire (43) following close behind.

Avon & Somerset’s figure boasts a scarcely believable 3,756 percent difference with the City of London.

Calls for increased penalties for using phone while driving

“Despite introducing new penalties for offending drivers, there are still so many using their mobile phones at the wheel,” said Tim Schwarz, head of marketing at Moneybarn, the provider of these figures.

“It’s clear there’s still more required from the relevant authorities to bring down these numbers. Even tougher penalties are in discussion – like MP’s current call for use of hands-free devices to be made illegal – to eliminate the ‘dial and drive’ mentality for good.”

Motorists urged to ‘check it before towing it’

Motorists urged to check it before towing it

There are around 4,000 incidents involving trailers on our roads every year, which has prompted Highways England to issue towing advice.

It follows a ‘runaway’ trailer on the M25 in Surrey, which caused five miles of tailbacks and delays of around 40 minutes. The advice is simple: ‘check it before towing it’.

“It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure equipment is fitted and used safely on every journey,” warned Simon Simon, MOT product manager at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

At the end of next week, millions of motorists will be returning from their summer holiday, with tens of thousands of vehicles towing caravans, camping trailers and boats hitting the road. Adequate checks are essential.

Highways England’s strategic road safety lead, Stuart Lovatt said: “Thankfully incidents like the one [on the M25] are very rare but now is the time to remind motorists of the need to make sure you have carried out proper checks and have loaded the trailer or vehicle correctly.

“We have all sorts travelling on our network including horse boxes, trailer tents and leisure vehicles such as boats and caravans. Our message today is really simple, check it before towing it. So that everyone gets home, safe and well”.

What causes towing incidents?

Many of the towing incidents were caused by some of the following factors:

  • Poorly loaded trailers and caravans.
  • Overloaded trailers.
  • Trailer and load too heavy for the vehicle’s towing capacity.
  • Driving too fast.
  • Serious crosswinds.
  • Breakaway cable not attached correctly.

How to avoid towing incidents

The chair of the national towing working group at Highways England says the following checks should be carried out before embarking on a journey. Some of these checks will require some forward planning, so don’t wait until the last minute before taking them into consideration.

  • Make sure the towing vehicle is suitable for the caravan or trailer load. It’s also important to check that the nose weight is sufficient.
  • Choose a car and caravan/trailer with stability aids.
  • Drive within the speed limits for towing – 60mph on a motorway. Take care when going downhill and/or overtaking.
  • Reduce speed when it’s raining or in high winds.
  • If instability occurs, do not brake, but ease off the accelerator and allow the speed to drop. Do not try to accelerate.
  • Following an instability scare, check all possible contributory factors and address any issues.

Smart on a trailer

Simon Smith adds: “DVSA’s priority is helping everyone keep their vehicle safe to drive.

“Trailer safety is all too often overlooked. But safety checks are life-saving and don’t take too long to carry out.”

Click here to find out how to get a free trailer safety check. Also check out our guide to towing a caravan or trailer.

‘Supercabs’ help to cut motorway collisions by a third

HGV Supercab

A week of action to improve road safety on the M1 helped to reduce collisions by almost a third, thanks in part to the deployment of ‘supercabs’.

The three custom-built Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks – also known as HGV supercabs – were acquired by Highways England in 2018 to help police catch people committing offences behind the wheel.

Thanks to the high vantage point, officers can look down on car and van drivers to catch people texting, using a smartphone or not wearing a seatbelt. The officers are also well placed to look across to other lorry drivers who are driving without due care and attention.

All three supercabs were used during the M1 safety week in May, during which time the number of collisions fell from 90 the previous week to 64. This is the fourth lowest number of collisions in 2019 and the second lowest outside school holidays.

The supercabs were used to catch a total of 200 dangerous drivers committing an offence, with each one stopped by a police officer. Hundreds of other motorists were given safety tips at motorway services.

Offences ranged from using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel, not wearing a seatbelt and careless driving.

Little changes can make a big difference

HGV supercab police truck

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “We’ve been really impressed with the results of our week of action on the M1 which shows how making little changes to the way you drive can make a big difference to safety on our motorways.

“Our HGV supercabs helped the police identify almost 200 dangerous drivers who could have caused collisions if they hadn’t been pulled over, and our safety tips at motorway services and in the media also helped to make the M1 safer for everyone.

“As part of our current motorway driving campaign, we’re encouraging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving to help keep us all moving so that the number of accidents continue to fall in the weeks and months ahead.”

PC Dave Lee from the safer roads team at Northamptonshire Police expressed his irritation at the number of drivers stopped during the safety week. “It’s always disappointing to catch drivers breaking the law.

“However, with a high number of motorists observed throughout the operation, these figures show it’s a small minority who continue to commit these types of offences.”

The supercabs are fitted with flashing lights for use in an emergency and have derestricted speed limiters to allow them to travel at higher speeds. Six police forces used them during the M1 safety week.

Earlier this year, Highways England released a video of a lorry driver making a credit card payment behind the wheel. In a separate video, Northamptonshire Police said they used a supercab to record a driver watching television, while another was filmed trying to cook their dinner.

Kia launches ‘Try Before You Buy’ car rental scheme in Oxford

Kia Stinger car rental

If you fancy living with a Kia Stinger to see what all the fuss is about, or want to discover how a Kia Sportage could cope with family life, the Korean brand’s new car rental scheme is for you.

The ‘Try Before You Buy’ initiative allows you to rent a Kia of your choice from a participating dealer, with prices starting at £15.70 per day. If you decide to buy it, Kia will give you your money back.

Brayleys Oxford is the latest Kia dealer to offer a new car rental service, with cars available for a day, a weekend, a month or even longer. You might need a few days just to escape the Oxford traffic.

The ‘Try Before You Buy’ scheme is a bolt-on available to prospective customers, with cars on offer for up to five days.

You might just fall head over heels in love with a Kia during the rental and you can’t imagine life without a Picanto.

Kia Picanto car rental

It’s another example of the ever-changing car ownership model, which includes car sharing, short term rentals and ‘Netflix-style’ pay-as-you-drive subscription services.

For Brayleys Oxford, it’s a chance to welcome new and existing customers into its showroom, as well as maximising the potential of its car stock.

Car rental ‘couldn’t be simpler’

Kia Sportage car rental

Michelle Prentice, dealer rental programme manager at Kia Motors, said: “We are proud to announce the launch [of] our new car rental location, which I’m confident will be a great addition, not only to Brayleys (Oxford), but to our Kia Rental Network.

“With demand for rental cars in this city being constant and high, we’re confident that our rental operation will be a great success.”

Pawel Kisiel, rental manager at Brayleys Oxford Kia, added: “The new Kia rental process here in Oxford couldn’t be simpler for our customers, as we have made sure our pricing is clear and we have [a] great selection of brand-new Kia cars already in place.”

The ‘Try Before You Buy’ is available on new Kia vehicles only and rates vary across different models. The minimum rental is one day and the maximum is five days, excluding the Stinger, which can only be rented for three days.

The Kia Stinger is also subject to a £1,000 excess and the driver must be aged 25 or over. Still, we’re sure younger drivers would be happy with a Picanto…

How to avoid being a victim of road rage

Road rage is a common problem on UK roads. A recent poll of 3,000 people found that nearly one in five road users are threatened with physical violence each year.

In a separate study, 22 percent of motorists* claimed to have got out of their car to argue with another driver in a road rage incident.

Dangerous overtaking is said to be the main trigger for road rage, prompting 28 percent of drivers to engage in an argument with a fellow motorist. Tailgating, using a mobile phone at the wheel and breaking the speed limit were the other sparks of anger named in the study.

Ahead of the end of the summer holiday period, road safety and breakdown company GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging drivers to spot the signs of road rage. Tens of thousands of motorists will hit the road over the bank holiday weekend, with Highways England removing roadworks to relieve stress.

“Most of us will have some experience of being on the receiving end of someone else’s aggression,” said Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM.

“Thankfully, violent and unprovoked attacks are rare, but it pays to be observant and if possible to recognise signs of trouble at their earliest stages.

Avoiding road rage

road rage incident

GEM has identified a few steps that it says will reduce the risk of a driver being the target of someone else’s aggression. These are:

  • Keep calm and show restraint: every journey brings the risk of frustration and conflict, so be patient and avoid using your horn. Hand gestures should be avoided, too.
  • Avoid the desire to ‘get even’: don’t attempt to educate or rebuke a driver who you believe is in the wrong.
  • Don’t push into traffic queues: wait for a signal from a fellow motorist.
  • Say thank you, say sorry: if you make a mistake, offer an apology to defuse any anger.
  • Move away from trouble: if you feel threatened, lock the doors and drive to the nearest police station. Alternatively, move to a busy area, such as a petrol station. Contact the police and/or press the horn repeatedly to deter an attacker.

Neil Worth added: “We encourage drivers to leave plenty of time for their journeys, which means they can feel calm and in control at the wheel. Stress can lead to risk taking, and this in turn increases the likelihood of aggressive incidents.

Man and woman road rage

“We also urge drivers to avoid becoming involved in situations they recognise as dangerous or risky. If you’re worried about another driver who may be in danger, then stop and call the police.”

Olympic gold medal winning cyclist and jockey Victoria Pendleton has backed a campaign aimed at encouraging a constructive debate on ‘road equality.” She said everyone has “an equal right to be on the road”.

“So let’s be more compassionate and considerate to others and see what change we can drive.”

*Cap HPI spoke to 1,002 adult drivers in February 2019.

Drivers face hands-free mobile phones ban

Drivers could face ban from using hands-free mobile phonesMPs are calling on the government to ban the use of hands-free mobile phones behind the wheel.

Members of the cross-party Transport Committee want tougher enforcement to “prevent the entirely avoidable tragedy of deaths and serious injuries”.

The use of a hand-held mobile phone is banned, with drivers facing a maximum punishment of six penalty points and a £200 fine. But MPs want this extended to the use of hands-free devices.

In 2017, there were 773 casualties, including 43 deaths and 135 serious injuries, in collisions where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor.

However, the rate of enforcement has dropped by more than two-thirds since 2011, MPs have said.

Hands-free ‘as socially unacceptable as drink-driving’

Hands-free mobile phone ban

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Committee, wants the use of a mobile phone behind the wheel to be “as socially unacceptable as drink-driving”.

“Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.

“There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention and the government should consider extending the ban to reflect this.”

Crucially, the report urges the government to “redefine the offence of driving while using a mobile phone to other devices so that it covers all hand-held usage, irrespective of whether this involves sending or receiving data”.

This would involve talking using a Bluetooth connection AND using smartphone mirroring technology, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It’s not clear how MPs would enforce the ban – using a hands-free device isn’t as visible as a driver holding a smartphone. The report says the government should engage with police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners “to explore options for improving the enforcement of this offence”.

“This should include looking at opportunities for making greater use of technology.”

‘Lives are needlessly lost’

Hands-free mobile in use

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We welcome the committee’s report and its acknowledgement of the dangers of using a handheld mobile when driving. Many lives are needlessly lost by drivers having handheld phone conversations, texting and looking at, or even posting on social media when behind the wheel.

“The RAC’s research suggests that bad habits in relation to illegal phone use while driving are on the rise once more, with a quarter admitting to making or taking a call with a handheld phone and almost one in seven admitting to taking videos or photos while driving.

“Drivers should also be aware that even if you are using a hands-free device, if you are not in proper control of the vehicle, then the police can take enforcement action.”

How to check what you can legally tow this summer

How to check what you can tow this summer

The government has issued advice for motorists towing a caravan this summer. This comes amid news that caravan holiday bookings are up 16 percent on last year.

“It’s important that all motorists know what their driving licence allows them to drive and if they’re entitled to tow,” said Lynette Rose, policy and communication director at DVLA Strategy.

The rules on what you can tow are different depending on when you passed your driving test. Your driving licence information will tell you what you’re allowed to tow.

If you passed your test BEFORE 1 January 1997

In general, if you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). Check your licence using thIs link to confirm.

If you passed your test on or AFTER 1 January 1997

If you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997, you can drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM. You can tow a trailer OVER 750kg if the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

There are further size restrictions for trailers that can be towed by motorists who passed their test on or after 19 January 2013, so you’re advised to use the online tool to find out what you can and can’t tow.

Motorhome restrictions

If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you can tow a motorhome weighing up to 7,500kg. If you passed after that date, you can drive a motorhome up to 3,500kg.

Harvey Alexander, director of marketing at the Caravan and Motorhome Club, said: “There’s been a significant rise in the number of people choosing to spend their holidays caravanning.

“Leisure vehicles provide a fantastic way to explore parts of the country you may have never experienced before, and it’s very important to us that we do all we can to help holidaymakers do so safely and legally.”

Click here to find out how to tow a trailer or caravan safely.

Mobile phone legislation is ‘putting lives at risk’

Mobile phone legislation is putting lives at risk

A leading road safety and breakdown organisation is calling on the government to update the wording of the law regarding the use of a mobile phone while driving.

The current law states that a mobile phone or device is ‘to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function’.

But GEM Motoring Assist argues that mobile phone use has evolved beyond the legislation introduced in 2003.

The organisation is urging the government to make the change after a driver successfully appealed a charge for the offence, claiming he “wasn’t using it to communicate”.

The High Court overturned the conviction of Ramsey Baretto, who had been caught filming the scene of a collision as he drove by.

Lady Justice Thirlwall stated: “The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving. It prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communication (and holding it at some stage during the process)… It follows that the activity of the respondent did not come within Regulation 110 and the Crown Court was right to quash the conviction.”

‘An absurd situation’

mobile phone driving laws could 'change quickly'

Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM, is angered by the successful appeal and is pressing the government for immediate action. “The government’s failure to bring legislation up to date is putting lives at risk.

“We now have an absurd situation where the wording of the law is insufficient and cumbersome, only stating ‘interactive communication’ as an illegal use of a mobile phone when driving, when we know it is clearly unsafe to use your mobile phone for any purpose when driving.

“Although penalties have increased, the specific wording of the law governing mobile phones and driving has not changed for 16 years. We are writing to the government urging them to update the legislation at the earliest opportunity. This will ensure it is fit for purpose, and will avoid further compromise to road safety.”

Using a mobile phone when driving: the law

Don't stream and drive

It is illegal to hold a phone or sat-nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. Drivers must have hands-free access, such as a Bluetooth handset, voice control, a dashboard holder, a windscreen mount or a built-in sat-nav.

You can receive six penalty points and a £200 fine if you’re caught using a hand-held mobile phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your test in the last two years.

You can also be taken to court, where you might be banned from driving or receive a maximum fine of £1,000.

‘Dark Knight’ coach crash planned for M62 this weekend

M62 Highways England exercise Dark Knight

Highways England has planned a huge emergency situation exercise on the M62 this weekend. ‘Exercise Dark Knight’ will simulate a multi-casualty accident involving a rolled coach, two HGVs, eight cars and a motorbike. It will be used to test responses to major road incidents.

Dark Knight will involve 100 emergency workers and 50 volunteers, and take place overnight on Saturday 10 August on a closed section of the M62. The nine-mile stretch near Warrington (J10-12) is currently receiving technology upgrades and two extra lanes. 

M62 Highways England exercise Dark Knight

“This exercise is a good opportunity for our crews to carry out imperative training for a major road traffic collision working collaborative with partner agencies,” said Jason Rain, training manager at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

“The fire service carries out a variety of training exercises on a regular basis to ensure that our firefighters have the most up-to-date training and can work efficiently with other emergency services to achieve the best possible results.”

M62 Highways England exercise Dark Knight

The 50 volunteers, including 15 members of the St Joseph’s Players amateur dramatic society in Leigh, will play the part of injured victims of the incident. The goal is for it to feel ‘as realistic as possible’. The scale of the operation is massive, with a crane used to put the bus on its side.

“Our motorways are among the safest in the world and we help to keep them safe by carefully planning what we’d do on the rare occasions when there’s a major incident,” said Chris Chadwick of Highways England.

M62 Highways England exercise Dark Knight

“We normally have to do this away from the motorway to avoid disruption to drivers, but will be able to make our latest scenario as realistic as possible by carrying out Exercise Dark Knight on the M62 when it’s already closed overnight for major construction work.

“We’re working closely with the emergency services on the exercise and are grateful to the volunteers who are giving up their time to help make our motorways safer for everyone.”

Sadly, despite the ‘Dark Knight’ codename, we doubt Batman will be on the scene.

Read more

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How to drive safely in strong winds


How to drive safely in strong winds

The Met Office has issued a weather warning for this weekend, with strong winds expected to cause widespread disruption, particularly during Saturday daytime.

We can expect ‘some delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport… with some fallen trees possible. Delays for high-sided vehicles on exposed routes and bridges [are] likely,’ says the Met Office.

Strong winds are the most common cause of damage and disruption in the UK, so it pays to take care on the road when the conditions are at their worst.

Of course, it makes sense to stay at home or to delay your journey if a storm is forecast, but if you must drive, or if you find yourself caught up in strong winds, here are some steps you can take to stay safe on the road.

Stay safe in strong winds

  • Slow down: the faster you drive, the more difficult it becomes to maintain control in crosswinds. Take particular care if you’re driving a high-sided vehicle or towing a trailer or caravan.
  • Hold tight: keep both hands on the wheel and be prepared for sudden gusts.
  • Give cyclists and motorcyclists extra room when overtaking.
  • Be prepared for stronger winds and sudden gusts when driving in exposed areas or over bridges.
  • Keep your distance, especially from high-sided vehicles and caravans.
  • Avoid towing a trailer, caravan or horsebox if possible.
  • Avoid using a roof box, as these can increase the car’s susceptibility to crosswinds.
  • Look out for debris in the road, especially after blind bends. Also look out for low-hanging branches, especially at night when they might not be picked up by your headlights.
  • Park away from trees, telephone lines, power lines and buildings.
  • Expect delays, speed restrictions and bridge closures. You might need to change your route, so leave extra time for your journey.
  • Listen to the weather forecast for updates. Remember, it’s often better to delay your journey if possible.
  • Keep an eye on traffic updates, either via local radio, social media or your sat-nav system.

‘Be prepared’ for windy conditions

VW damaged by tree after strong winds

Mark Lewis, director of standards at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Driving in windy conditions can be quite challenging, so it’s important that you concentrate on the road at all times and take particular care when driving through narrow roads or over bridges.

“Also, keep an eye out for where you will suddenly go from a windy section of the road to a sheltered one – sudden loss of strong winds can be just as unbalancing, so be prepared.”

Click here for the latest UK weather warnings issued by the Met Office.