A road safety charity has called on ministers to provide better funding for traffic police after statistics showed fewer drivers are being stopped for using mobile phones while driving.
According to research carried out by the BBC using the Freedom of Information Act, the number of drivers caught using a mobile phone by police has almost halved in five years.
The corporation reported that fewer than 95,000 drivers were stopped by police in the UK last year, compared with 178,000 people in 2011-12.
The news follows an RAC survey showing that more drivers are admitting using mobile phones at the wheel and a pledge of tougher sanctions from transport secretary Chris Grayling. Recent in 2014 by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that using a mobile phone slowed a driver’s reactions more than drink or drugs.
Alice Bailey, communications and campaigns advisor for Brake, said: ‘It would be wonderful to think this drop is down to people getting the message about the dangers of mobile phone use, but sadly we don’t think this is the case. A recent report called mobile use behind the wheel "an epidemic", with our own studies showing more half of drivers in some age groups admitting they still use a phone while driving.
‘As our police forces have faced major budget reductions, road traffic officers have too often been seen as a soft option for cuts, they are an essential part of the service and save lives. As the Government brings in tougher new penalties for this crime it must make sure it resources our police forces properly so this is a real deterrent.’
Jayne Willetts, Police Federation lead for roads policing, said: ‘Sadly, it's no surprise that figures have dropped, because the number of operational roads policing officers, whose core role would be to target offences such as use of mobile phones, has significantly dropped as well.
Ms Willetts said that since 2000, the number of roads policing officers has almost halved, with fewer than 4,000 now working across England and Wales.