New figures reveal that the actual number of drivers that are punished for using mobile phones behind the wheel has plunged following drastic new police cuts. The court convictions for these offences have halved in only four years, and fixed penalty notices are down a massive 76%. Campaigners believe that drivers are only getting away with the offence because there are fewer police on the roads to catch and prosecute them, with the RAC calling it an ‘epidemic of offending’. This follows a reduction in traffic police after a head count for full time officers dropped 23% between 2010-2014.
However, even if a driver is caught they can still escape punishment by signing up for an awareness course, and some even simply get a lecture by the roadside. The Daily Mail launched a campaign on the 15/9/2016 which demanded the need for much stiffer deterrents. The cause was hugely backed by road safety groups, families of the masses of victims that have been affected, and even politicians.
A statement from Theresa May included she thought that using a hand held phone whilst driving was ‘totally unacceptable’ and pledged tougher action on a crackdown.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are also revealed:
These figures have a major correlation between between a reduction in traffic policing – blamed on budget cuts – and a huge drop in penalties and prosecution against offending motorists.
Jayne Willetts, a road policing spokesperson at the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has explained her concerns, “There simply aren’t enough officers out there. Less officers and less prosecutions is a direct correlation. We do not have the resources to be everywhere.”
Denying that officers were being more lenient on motorists, she continues, “Officers are overwhelmed by this. They are frustrated that this is all going on around them.”
A large scale RAC study found that 61% of drivers think there are too few police officers on the roads. 27% explained they thought they were unlikely to be caught breaking the law. The use of a handheld mobile device became illegal in 2003, and any offenders risk 3 penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine.
A new Government consultation proposes increasing the penalty fine to 4 points, or 6 for lorry drivers, and a £150 fine. However, road safety charity ‘Brake’ wants fines to start at £500 and 6 penalty points, meaning that drivers caught twice would be automatically disqualified. Brake joined grieving relatives in welcoming
A Government consultation proposes increasing that to four points – or six for lorry drivers – and a £150 fine.
But road safety charity Brake wants fines to start at £500 and six penalty points, meaning drivers would face being disqualified if they were caught twice. Brake joined grieving families of victims who were killed at the hands of a driver using a mobile in support of the new campaign for tougher penalties. Darrell Martin, who’s brother Lee was sadly killed by a van driver with 8 previous convictions for using his mobile, explained “I’m pleased the Daily Mail is campaigning on this and hopefully it can prevent other families from losing their loved ones.”
Paul Baker, whose 14-year-old daughter Liberty died after she was hit by a driver who was reading a text message, said: ‘We need a change in the law and police back on the beat. We can’t bring Liberty back but we can try to prevent further road deaths and save other families from going through our experience.’
Hope Fennell, 13, was killed by a lorry driver who had been texting his girlfriend just seconds earlier. Her mother Nazan praised our campaign, saying: ‘The Daily Mail is doing a really good job. Police need to put more resources into this and use their resources more carefully.
‘You see officers patrolling now and again but I don’t think this is a priority in their eyes.’
A traffic officer told the RAC, “Holding a phone and using it to talk, post, text or capture media is a massive distraction and is deemed as breaking the law. It could also lead to a charge of dangerous driving if your action results in an accident or if you are witnessed by a mobile officer.”
The officer said interacting with a phone in a dashboard cradle ‘could also be a distraction and deemed to be leaving you not in proper control of your vehicle’. It came as researchers warned yesterday that using your phone in hands-free mode could be as off-putting as pressing the device to your ear, and may be more dangerous than having several alcoholic drinks up to the legal limit.
Chartered psychologist Dr Neale Kinnear sais, “The key finding was that the response time was worse in two mobile phone conversation conditions, hand held or hands free. That was 30% worse than when driving at the legal alcohol limit. Based on lab studies and simulators, there is a clear and consistent finding that even hands-free affects performance.”
The Government Guidelines state: “You can use hands-free phones, SATNAVs, and 2 way radios when you are driving or riding, but if the police deem you a distracted driver then you can still be stopped and penalised.”
Records show that in the past decade, at least 205 lives have been taken due to crashes involving drivers using handheld phones, in 2014, 492 accidents were blamed on phone use and 21 people were killed with 84 suffering serious injuries. The lead officer for road policing for the National Police Chiefs Council, Suzette Davenport, said that it was often difficult to prove a driver had actually been using their phone at the wheel. The senior officer, who is also Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, said officers have often handed out penalty notices for an alternative offence, saying that drivers weren’t actually in proper control of the vehicle as that does not require proof that a call or text was being made at that time.
Other officers used their discretion to give a ‘roadside lecture’ to drivers who used their phone in stationary traffic, she continued, but denied it meant police were soft on the offence, stressing she would support an automatic ban for second time offenders.
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