London police forces have been getting tough on drivers using their phones and other hand-held devices at the wheel, according to analysis of government data.
Since 1 March 2017, motorists caught on their phones have been stung with increased penalties, with offenders receiving £200 fines and six points on their licence.
In the first 12 months since penalties were hiked, City of London police handed out 1,427 fixed penalty notices per capita, while London Metropolitan officers issued 228 fines per capita - which is more than any other forces across England and Wales over the same 12 months, the study found.
Crackdown on drivers using phones: New data has revealed which police forces have been issuing the most fines to motorists caught using hand-held devices at the wheel
Penalties for phone use at the wheel were doubled two years ago due to the alarming number of drivers who were neglecting the law.
It was a direct result of a 50 per cent spike in accidents caused by motorists on the phone between 2013 and 2017.
But despite the harsher punishments, plenty of motorists have continued to operate mobile devices while driving, according to government national statistics.
Vehicle finance provider Moneybarn analysed the latest government data for phone offences at the wheel for the full year ending March 2018 - and revealed which areas across England and Wales have the most penalties issued per driver in England and Wales.
Drivers in the capital were most likely to be issued with a fine for a CU80 offence - 'Using a mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle' - with City of London and the Met topping the list of the 10 forces that had handed out FPNs over that year.
Moneybarn said the results may directly correlate with the number of officers in the capital, with City of London estimated to have one copper per every 15 civilians in its jurisdiction.
In comparison, London Met has one officer per 250 inhabitants, based on Moneybarn's calculations.
FPNs issued to motorists for using phones by forces per capita
POLICE ISSUING MOST FINES
1. City of London - 1,427 fines per capita
2. London Metropolitan - 228 fines per capita
3. Cheshire - 181 fines per capita
4. West Mercia - 164 fines per capita
5. Suffolk & Norfolk - 154 fines per capita
6. Essex - 150 fines per capita
7. Thames Valley - 141 fines per capita
8. Merseyside - 132 fines per capita
9. Hampshire - 126 fines per capita
10. Warwickshire - 121 fines per capita
POLICE ISSUING FEWEST FINES
1. Avon & Somerset - 37 fines per capita
2. Nottinghamshire - 40 fines per capita
=3. South Yorkshire - 42 fines per capita
=3. Wiltshire - 42 fines per capita
=5. Leicestershire - 43 fines per capita
=5. Northamptonshire - 43 fines per capita
7. Northumbria - 44 fines per capita
8. Sussex - 49 fines per capita
9. West Midlands - 50 fines per capita
10. Devon & Cornwall - 51 fines per capita
Cheshire (181), West Mercia (164) and Suffolk and Norfolk (154) completed the top five police force areas issuing the most penalties per capita.
Avon and Somerset Police, on the other hand, was found to have issued the smallest number of FPNs for phone use.
A mere 37 fines per capita were handed out - a 3,756 per cent difference compared to City of London.
Tim Schwarz, head of marketing at Moneybarn, said the research showed that increased fines have still yet to curb the offence type and backed the Government's latest proposal to ban motorists from using hands-free devices while in control of a car.
'Despite introducing new penalties for offending drivers, there are still so many using their mobile phones at the wheel,' he said.
'It's clear there's still more required from the relevant authorities to bring down these numbers.
'Even tougher penalties are in discussion – like MPs current call for use of hands-free devices to be made illegal – to eliminate the "dial and drive" mentality for good.'
Penalties for using a phone while driving were doubled to £200 fines and 6 penalty points in a government effort to reduce the number of motorists being distracted by calls and texts
One other issue could be drivers' lack of knowledge about the ban on phone when driving.
Many still claim to be unaware that they can be fined for using a device when they'e stopped at a red light, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.
Moneybarn also reviewed the number of FPNs for illegal phone use at the wheel that were cancelled by forces during the same 12 months.
Drivers can contest the FPN and must prove one of three scenarios to get off the fine and avoid receiving penalty points.
If they can show that no offence was committed, or the FPN was wrongly issued, the offence was committed by someone else or there was a technical error when the fixed penalty notice was issued, they can escape prosecution.
The analysis showed that Northumbria had cancelled the most fines - 40 per cent over the year - while Leicestershire Police binned just one per cent of the FPNs it had handed out.
Police in Staffordshire, Essex, Avon and Somerset and West Yorkshire also upheld 98 per cent of the fines they issued, according to the data.
Forces that cancelled the most FPNs for phone use (Mar17-18)
Areas with highest % of cancelled fines
1. Northumbria - 40%
2. Warwickshire - 16%
3. South Wales - 13%
4. Humberside - 8%
5. London Metropolitan - 6%
Areas with lowest % of cancelled fines
1. Leicestershire - 1%
=2. Staffordshire - 2%
=2. Essex - 2%
=2. Avon and Somerset - 2%
=2. West Yorkshire - 2%
Ramsey Barreto, 51, was stopped by police after he was seen gathering footage as he passed the scene of a serious accident in Ruislip, west London, in August 2017.
The builder was charged with breaches of rules relating to mobile phone use while driving and convicted by magistrates in July the following year.
But his conviction was overturned in a landmark case at Isleworth Crown Court in October 2018, when a judge said the regulations do not ban use of a phone to shoot video while driving.
Mr Barreto's case went to the High Court with two two of the country's top judges upholding the crown court decision, clearing him of the offence in July.