Mobile phone penalties and road crashes: Are changes in sanctions effective?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Road crashes are a major, preventable cause of death and serious injury. Being distracted by a mobile phone while driving can increase the risk of a crash by three to four times and increase crash severity. To reduce distracted driving, on 1 March 2017 the penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving in Britain doubled to ₤200 and six penalty points. Method: We examine the effects of this increased penalty on numbers of serious or fatal crashes over 6 weeks either side of the intervention using Regression Discontinuity in Time. Results: We find no effect of the intervention, suggesting the increased penalty is not effective in reducing the more serious road crashes. Conclusions: We rule out an information problem and an enforcement effect, concluding the increase in fines was insufficient to change behaviour. With very low detection rates of mobile phone use, our result could occur if the perceived certainty of punishment remained very low after the intervention. Practical application: Future technology will increase the ability to detect mobile phone usage, and there may be fewer road crashes if the solution is to raise awareness of such technology and publicise numbers of offenders caught. Alternatively, a mobile phone blocking application could avert the problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-392
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Britain
  • Fines
  • Mobile phone
  • Policy intervention
  • Road crash severity
  • Humans
  • Criminals
  • Cell Phone Use
  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Cell Phone
  • Automobile Driving


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