There has been a rise in Welsh drivers caught using their phones behind the wheel, despite the introduction of tougher penalties. 

From 1 March, motorists caught using their mobiles while driving receive six points and a £200 fine, instead of the previous three points and £100. 

But, according to BBC Radio Wales’ Jason Mohammad programme, the new legislation has failed to change Welsh drivers’ attitudes, as 166 motorists were stopped by police for using their phones in March, compared to 137 in February. 

The law changes, which were accompanied by a hard-hitting campaign called Handsoff, mean drivers caught breaking the law within two years of passing their test could lose their licence. Drivers with more years behind the wheel could be banned if they accrue 12 points in three years.

"The next government needs to commit serious resources to ensure these new laws can be effectively implemented and that messages surrounding the dangers of phone use behind the wheel are communicated year-through, until it sinks in."

Richard Johnson
road traffic accident specialist at Thompsons Solicitors

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), drivers who use a phone behind the wheel, whether hands-free or hand-held, are much less road aware, fail to see road signs, react slower and take longer to brake and stop. They are, it says, four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and others. 

At least 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured on UK roads in 2015, in accidents involving drivers using a phone. 

Richard Johnson, a road traffic accident specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Distracted drivers cost lives on our roads every year. While Thompsons welcomed the changes to the law in March, and the flurry of press activity that accompanied them, we were always clear that there needs to be sustained publicity about the dangers of driving while using a mobile. 

“To really curb this reckless and dangerous habit we, as a society, need to ensure driving while using a mobile phone becomes as unacceptable as drink driving. We also need far tougher jail sentences for those who kill or cause serious injury because of their selfish phone use behind the wheel. 

“This isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight. The next government needs to commit serious resources to ensure these new laws can be effectively implemented and that messages surrounding the dangers of phone use behind the wheel are communicated year-through, until it sinks in.”