The AA (what used to be the Automobile Association) has told us that penalties for mobile phone use while driving have led to less mobile phone use while driving. Something which seems fair enough if we’re honest about it. But sadly that’s not quite how it has been put. Rather, the implication is that less mobile phone usage has led to fewer driving problems overall and we’ve simply not got the evidence to support that:

A crackdown on mobile phone use at the wheel has cut the number of offences by half, new figures show.

Around 39,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued to drivers between March and December last year compared with 74,000 during the same period in 2016, according to police data.

The 47 per cent decline is due to a combination of harsher punishments, road safety campaigns and a lack of enforcement due to reductions in traffic officer numbers, according to the AA.

There’s much there that is true. The effect of any punishment is the severity of the punishment times the likelihood of being caught. Up goes the penalty, the more the effect therefore. We’d also expect more attention being paid to this new offence to lead to less of the offence. That’s all just fine.

But look at the way that reads. That total offences have fallen. Which isn’t what is being said nor what is supported:

It has taken increased fines of £200 and the threat of six penalty points to kerb the number of drivers using phones at the wheel, a new study has revealed.

Authorities doubled the punishment for those caught operating a handheld device when driving in March last year, and records have shown that it’s reduced the number of offenders – as well as line the pockets of the Government.

A freedom of information request to the nation’s police forces revealed that 30,470 fixed penalty notices were handed out for phone use at the wheel last year, down from 46,594 in 2016 – a decline of 39 per cent.

The measurement is of the number of people punished for mobile phone usage. Which isn’t what we want to know at all. The actual thing we’re interested in is the number of accidents in total. For why do we ban mobile usage? Because it can cause accidents. The effect of the ban on the thing we’re interested in has been? We don’t know, not a Scooby.

Which is a pity because it would be interesting to know what the hell the effect of throwing people into chokey is, wouldn’t it? Rather than how many people we can catch having made up a new offence?

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So Much For Subtlety
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So Much For Subtlety

We all know it is about revenue raising. It is unlikely that anything much has happened to crash or death rates. The things that effect those are many and various – better car design, better road design, aging drivers, faster ambulances, better health care.

The question is what will the government do. If tickets have halved, expect fines to double.

wiggiatlarge
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“We all know it is about revenue raising.” Well maybe it is ? but if so with a drop in convictions it is not a very good way of doing it. The truth is it is a dangerous habit, I was run of the road by someone using his mobile and he had the cheek to stop to see if all was well whilst still having the bloody phone clamped to his ear. The lack of traffic patrol cars has to be the reason, I recently did a west country trip and back and did not see one Police patrol… Read more »

Maritime Barbarian
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Maritime Barbarian

Who wrote “kerb” when they meant “curb”?

Baron Jackfield
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Baron Jackfield

@SMFS… I’m not so sure as you about crash rates. Anecdotally, if you see someone driving erratically there’s still a better-than-even chance that they’re on their phone – with the corollary that if they’re driving like that there’s a fair chance that they’re not being as observant as they could/should be. “Not looking where you’re going” being the biggest contributor to road accidents according to the TRL.

Tim Newman
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The AA have a shop at the Dover ferry terminal telling drivers heading to France that French law requires they carry 2 breathalyser kits which they can helpfully sell you. What they don’t tell the drivers is that this law is a complete farce, introduced by a minister who owned a stake in the manufacturer of said kits. Outrage ensued and to save face, in very French fashion, they never enacted any legislation which punished the breaching of this law. So you have to carry one, but you can’t be punished for not doing so. The effect is you don’t… Read more »

WindyPants
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WindyPants

As someone who, until recently, used to drive 50k miles per year, I can tell you that in roughly 3/4 of the cases of dangerous driving that I saw on roads in Britain, the perpetrators were of ethnic, particularly subcontinental Indian, appearance.

I would be particularly interested to know that groups impact on the RTA fatality statistics. For some reason though, I doubt that those figures are publicly available.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

In a perfect world, every driver would have the dedicated 100% concentration on the act of driving seen in F1 professionals. But this is not a perfect world. I’ll confess to driving along while thinking about the meeting I’m going to, or what to have for lunch – and (when I had a regular commute) would often arrive with little recollection of the journey. Using a mobile (or a GPS) is certainly distracting – and so is trying to control a couple of unruly kids in the back seat. But plod loves to single out mobile phone use because it’s… Read more »

Fred Z
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Fred Z

As usual, one learns much from what the media fails to report.

All too often, an undescribed criminal is a diversity or an illegal, an unstated statistic makes leftism look bad and an undescribed good person is a white male.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

NUJ guidelines preclude racial/religious distinctions in a crime report.

https://www.nuj.org.uk/about/nuj-code/

Note item 9. Then read the other 11 and decide for yourself how well they are followed.

John B
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John B

So… lots of stuff happened, the result of which is fewer motorists got nicked. And from multiple causal factors which contribute to the fall in numbers, let’s pick the one… increased threat of punishment.. as the prime reason, because it suits our argument that the citizenry should be kicked and kicked until they do what the Gestapo tell them…. in a good cause of course. The Führer will be pleased. Meanwhile… does the fall in the number of tickets issued correlate at all with a decrease of mobile phones? Maybe motorists, being more aware of increased penalties, have got more… Read more »