The number of drivers caught using a mobile phone at the wheel fell by more than 10 per cent following the introduction of tougher penalties.
Some 1,700 fewer drivers were stopped for illegally using a phone while driving in the three months after a Government crackdown compared with the three months immediately before, according to police forces across the country.
In total, 14,160 drivers were caught between March and May for the offence, which carries a penalty of six points and a £200 fine.
Some 14,160 drivers were stopped while using their handheld mobiles between March and May down from 15,861 in the three months earlier before penalties were increased
The result is a victory for the Daily Mail’s End The Mobile Madness campaign.
This was down from the 15,861 motorists who were stopped between December 2016 and February 2017.
The RAC compiled the figures after making Freedom of Information requests to police forces, with 38 responding.
The sharpest percentage fall in the number of drivers caught was in the City of London police force area, with just 41 drivers stopped after the new penalties came in, down from 124 who were caught in the three months prior – a 67 per cent fall.
Security guard escapes ban claiming his phone ‘fell on the floor’
A security guard caught holding his mobile phone at the wheel avoided a ban by claiming he was just picking it up off the floor.
Steven Parkinson, 33, was seen by a police officer on a busy road in Manchester in April.
But the father-of-four, of Bolton, insisted he only reached for his phone when it fell off the passenger seat.
Steven Parkinson, 33, was seen by a police officer on a busy road in Manchester in April holding his mobile phone in his hand
He already had six points on his licence for not identifying a driver in his vehicle last year. Another six for the mobile offence took him to 12 points, usually meaning an automatic ban.
But Parkinson claimed he needed to drive for his job to support his family and was instead fined £92 with £115 costs by city magistrates after admitting using a phone while driving.
Durham Constabulary stopped 73 drivers, down from 149 (a 51 per cent drop) while Surrey Police caught 279, down from 564 (also 51 per cent fall).
But while 25 forces recorded a reduction in the number of drivers caught for the offence after the new penalties came in, there was a rise in 11, and in two the number was unchanged. Kent Police caught 337, up from 237 (a 42 per cent rise), Gwent Police caught 79, up from 56 (a 41 per cent rise) and Leicestershire Police caught 134, up from 98 (a 37 per cent rise).
Last night the RAC said it supported the Mail’s campaign, which highlighted the risks of using the phone at the wheel.
Shortly after the campaign was launched, the Government announced plans to double the fines and penalties for drivers who were caught out.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams welcomed the fall, but warned that the recorded figures were just the ‘top of the iceberg’ because a lack of front-line traffic police meant many culprits went unpunished.
The number of dedicated roads policing officers across Britain fell 27 per cent in the five years to 2015.
Mr Williams added: ‘It is still much too early to tell if the stricter penalties are changing drivers’ behaviour, but these figures give hope that at least some are starting to get the message that driving and using a hand-held phone to talk, text or tweet don’t mix.
‘Following the introduction of tougher penalties, we know police forces are running regular campaigns to catch offenders – so one way of reading these figures is to say that this activity, in parts of the country, is beginning to yield results.
‘But the flipside to this is the possibility that enforcement levels are still much lower than they need to be to stamp out this illegal activity.’
The figures emerged months after RAC research suggested more than nine million motorists continued to use a hand-held phone while driving.