Thousands caught driving distracted twice over four years
Almost 10,000 drivers have been caught twice for being distracted while driving, including using a mobile phone, in the last four years.
More than 600 people were caught three times and one driver five times, data from a BBC Radio 5 live freedom of information request to the DVLA shows.
Road safety charity Brake says the findings show authorities are not taking the offence "seriously enough".
The government says it is pushing ahead with plans for tougher penalties.
The data refers to the number of drivers who have received CU80 endorsements in the past four years, which is how long the DVLA keeps its records.
CU80 endorsements cover a range of breaches in requirements regarding the control of a vehicle, and include being distracted by a mobile phone.
Although 238,694 people have been caught driving while distracted at least once, just 284 have received a ban as a result, the DVLA said.
The findings come in the same week that Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years for causing a crash which killed a mother and three children.
He was filmed using his mobile phone just before his lorry ploughed into a queue of vehicles on the A34 in Berkshire.
How many times drivers have received points for CU80 offences from 2012-2015:
- Once - 228,301 drivers
- Twice - 9,722 drivers
- Three times - 638 drivers
- Four times - 32 drivers
- Five times - one driver
The data for 2012-2015, released to the Emma Barnett programme on BBC Radio 5 live, shows the total number of drivers being caught is falling: in 2014, 68,409 motorists received a CU80 endorsement, however in 2015 this fell to 42,950 drivers.
According to campaigners, this is caused by a reduction in the number of road policing officers in the UK.
The total number of traffic officers in the police dropped from 5,635 at the end of March 2010 to 4,356 by the end of March 2014, according to Brake.
- It is illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices
- The rules are the same if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic
- It is also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider
- You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you are caught, with three penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100
- Your case could also go to court, you could be disqualified from driving or riding and get a maximum fine of £1,000
SOURCE: HOME OFFICE
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, described the statistics as "astonishing and worrying".
"It's further evidence that the authorities are not taking illegal use of mobiles behind the wheel seriously enough.
"We need tougher sanctions on drivers who use their devices when driving, and that includes increasing both the fines and penalty points," he said.
'Fear of missing out'
So why do people feel the need to use their phones so frequently, even knowing the dangers involved?
Dr Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said being addicted to mobile phones is rare, but people are dependent on them for their working and personal lives.
"Many people that use their smartphones constantly are not addicted but they do experience FOMO (fear of missing out)," he said.
"Such individuals will therefore engage in smartphone use in almost any situation."
He added: "Driving is one of many activities that some individuals will do simultaneously with using smartphones but unlike most other activities, the consequences can be dangerous and life-threatening if the driver does not have full concentration on the road around them."
The current punishment for using a mobile phone while driving is three penalty points, but in September the government announced it was looking at plans to double the penalty to six points.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport reiterated the government's desire to push ahead with the new plans.
Law in other countries
Using a mobile phone while driving is widely banned around the world but the US has a different approach.
Only six states have brought in total bans, according to Cellular News, with another 18 having "partial bans" - normally focused on teenage drivers and bus drivers. As in the UK, offenders tend to be dealt with by a fixed fine.
The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh can impose prison sentences for breaking the ban.
In the Netherlands, you can face a fine of up to 600 euros or two weeks in jail.
In the Irish Republic you face a three-month prison sentence if you are caught three times.
- You can hear more on this story on 5 live Daily with Emma Barnett from 10am