The number of people prosecuted for driving while using a mobile phone is down by almost half in the last five years despite a Department for Transport (DfT) study that shows that there are significantly more people offending.

According to data released by the Ministry of Justice, there were 17,414 prosecutions launched in magistrates’ courts for drivers using their mobile at the wheel last year in England and Wales, down from 32,571 in 2009, a fall of 47%.

The figures clash with a 2014 study from the DfT which shows that more than half a million drivers were seen using a mobile phone at the wheel. Road traffic accidents with mobile phone use have also risen from 349 in 2010 to 492 last year.

Any driver caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel can face a fine of £100 and three penalty points on their licence. Offenders may also be summoned to a magistrates’ court if they ignore or challenge a fixed penalty notice.

David Robinson, a serious injury solicitor specialising in road traffic accident claims at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Using a mobile phone while driving is a seriously dangerous offence and it seems that, despite all the evidence that the ban is being widely ignored, prosecutions are falling.

“Raising awareness of the dangers associated with using a mobile phone at the wheel is crucial – people should be embarrassed to be seen doing so - and that means any use, texts, social media as well as calls. To make that cultural shift there needs to be an extensive media campaign accompanied by proper resources for police forces so they can target and prosecute drivers who flout the law. The costs in terms of human misery and for the NHS of allowing people to carry on as they are now is too great to ignore.”