Warwickshire Police, West Mercia Police, the Safer Roads Partnership and West Midlands Ambulance Service are urging motorists to avoid deadly distractions at the wheel, through a targeted mobile phone enforcement and education campaign which is running throughout November to crack down on people who continue to flout the law.
Using a mobile phone while driving is a potentially fatal distraction and has been an illegal offence since December 2003. Studies show that drivers using a mobile are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or a text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a collision.
The penalty for using a mobile phone while driving has steadily increased over the years and is now a £100 fine and three penalty points on the offender’s licence. However, the government has recently proposed that this should increase to six penalty points and a £200 fine; ensuring drivers face much tougher penalties. These changes are expected to take effect in the first half of 2017.
A recent 2016 annual report on motoring, by the RAC, suggests the number of motorists who illegally use mobile phones while at the wheel is rising. 1,714 motorists were surveyed and 31% of motorists said they used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014. The number of drivers who said they had sent a message or posted on social media rose from 7% to 19%, while 14% said they had taken a photograph or video while driving.
With this in mind, officers from West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police will be out on the roads over the coming weeks, carrying out targeted enforcement and cracking down on any motorists who are using their phones at the wheel. As well as enforcement, they will also be explaining some of the implications of doing so, whether that is a criminal conviction or causing the death of another road user because they weren’t paying attention to the road.
Superintendent Daryn Elton for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police said:
“Improving the safety of our roads is a year-round commitment for our officers. Although mobile phone enforcement is already part of our daily operational activity, we will be stepping up our efforts over the coming weeks to crack down on motorists who are blatantly ignoring both the law and the dangers involved.
“Many motorists are already aware that using a mobile phone while driving is illegal. This includes using your phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media, and applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. With smartphones becoming more and more embedded into our daily routines, we are all aware of how useful they can be. However, it is unacceptable to allow yourself to be distracted by them while driving, and officers will ensure any motorists doing so face the penalties involved.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service Warwick Area Manager Martyn Scott said:
“Sadly our staff are all too familiar with the consequences of people using mobile phones while driving. We have seen horrific injuries caused for example by a driver not seeing a pedestrian and being involved in a collision. Tragically, lives have been lost through this sort of action while other people have been left with injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives.”
Superintendent Elton added: “It is extremely disheartening to see the results from the recent RAC survey, showing a rise in motorists using their phone at the wheel. We are urging people to think about the consequences of their actions and ask themselves how they would feel if they caused a collision and injured, or killed, somebody else simply for the sake of making a call, reading a text message or checking social media.”
As well as targeted enforcement activity, police officers in Warwickshire will be joining forces with paramedics from West Midlands Ambulance Service on key dates throughout November to target mobile phone users from an education perspective. Police officers and paramedics will work together during certain shifts, patrolling the county in unmarked vehicles, looking for any motorists using their mobile phone while driving. If the driver has no previous mobile phone convictions, they will be offered an educational alternative to the penalty points and fine, and will be shown a presentation at the roadside and given advice from the police officer and paramedic about the consequences of their actions at the wheel.
West Midlands Ambulance Service Area Support Officer Ian Inglesant, who will be accompanying police officers, said: “If through education, we can persuade drivers to abandon using their mobile phones while driving, we will have made the roads considerably safer. I will have my medical kit with me while I am out; hopefully I won’t need it, but I have been to too many incidents where the use of a mobile phone has had devastating consequences. If the drivers who have been stopped hear first-hand about those injuries and incidents hopefully it will help to drive the message home – mobile phones and driving don’t mix.”