Throughout November, police and ambulance services in Shropshire joined forces to crack down on motorists who are using their mobile phones while driving.
West Mercia Police, West Midlands Ambulance Service, Safer Roads Partnership and Warwickshire Police teamed up through a targeted mobile phone enforcement and education campaign in a bid to catch and discourage motorists from breaking the law.
Despite a number of police warnings and high-profile tragedies, drivers still continue to use their mobile phones while driving.
Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 2,437 drivers across the West Mercia and Shropshire region have been given fixed penalty notices or fined between 2012 and 2016.
The campaign has also been publicised on Twitter by the Operational Patrol Unit in Shropshire with live updates on the number of people being caught using their mobile phones at the wheel across the county. Since 1st November, 535 drivers (figures correct as of 21st November) have been caught across West Mercia and Warwickshire, including Shropshire.
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."
Motorists Fear Mobile Phone Usage
Large numbers of motorists in the UK believe the danger of mobile phones and technology are one of the biggest threats than anything else on the road. In the recently published Safety Culture Survey 2016, commissioned by IAM RoadSmart, over 86 percent of UK motorists think distraction caused by mobile phones has become worse over the last three years.
The survey found that 94 percent of respondents saw drivers checking social media or updating social media as a threat to their personal safety.
According to the Safer Roads Partnership, studies show that drivers using a mobile are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. A split second lapse in concentration to check a text or take a call could result in a collision.
Recent figures from the RAC also show that mobile phone use while driving is on the rise. In 2016, 31 percent of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone compared with 8 percent in 2014.
Research unveiled that 48 percent admitted to using their phone to make or receive calls while in stationary traffic, 14 percent said they had taken photos or videos while driving and 20 percent believe it is acceptable to check social media while in traffic.
There has also been an increase in the percentage of drivers who feel it is safe to check social media posts on their phone when in stationary traffic, with the figure rising from 14 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2016.
Last year 34 percent said that use of a handheld phone for talking, texting or internet access was a concern. In 2016, the figure has risen to 41 percent.
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."
What Does The Law Say?
It first became illegal to use mobile phones while driving in 2003. Current law states that it is illegal to use a handheld device while driving and when sat in stationary traffic. Drivers will be fined for using their phone for calls, reading a text, checking social media and following a map.
The only time it is legal to use your mobile phone in your vehicle is when you are safely parked or need to call 999 in an emergency.
Drivers are able to use a hands-free phone, sat navs and 2-way radio devices when driving or riding. However, if police believe that you are distracted you could be stopped and penalised.
The penalty for using mobile phones behind the wheel has steadily increased over the years and fines are set to be tougher from early 2017.
Offenders are currently presented with a £100 fine and three points on their licence. However, the government has now proposed that drivers face tougher penalties with £200 fine and six penalty points. Drivers used to be able to opt for a remedial course as an alternative; however, this may also be scrapped.
Points on your licence may also result in higher insurance premiums. If you gain six points in the first two years of passing your test will result in the loss of your licence.
There have been a number of high-profile cases that highlight the dangers of using a mobile while driving. This includes the tragic death of 20-year-old Laura Thomas in July 2013 on the A5 in Shropshire. A lorry driver ploughed into her broken-down vehicle, which then killed Laura and injured her fiancé.
Ian Glover, 44, was jailed for five years after he admitted to browsing pornographic websites on his phone while driving.
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."