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Police crackdown on distracted drivers

SaferoadsWarwickshire Police, West Mercia Police and the Safer Roads Partnership are supporting the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) mobile phone week of action this week, by reminding motorists to avoid deadly distractions at the wheel and continuing to crack down on anyone who breaks the law.

During the last national NPCC campaign (November 2016), 695 motorists in Warwickshire and West Mercia were caught using their mobile phone at the wheel by police and issued with fixed penalty notices. Both forces continue to enforce mobile phone safety as a priority throughout the year, and this week is no exception.

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 announced that penalties will be doubling to six points and a £200 fine; ensuring drivers face much tougher penalties. These changes are expected to take effect in March 2017.

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.

A recent 2016 annual report on motoring by the RAC suggests the number of motorists who illegally use mobile phones 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 continue to carry out targeted enforcement and crack down on any motorists carrying out this offence. As well as enforcement, they will also be explaining some of the implications involved, 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. Mobile phone enforcement is already part of our daily operational activity, and we are fully supportive of national campaigns like this one which aim to highlight the ongoing work by police forces 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.

"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.

"Think. Put your phone away and avoid deadly distractions at the wheel."