Motorists using mobile phones face crackdown

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Drivers who put lives at risk by using their mobile phones behind the wheel are to be targeted with a new crackdown, a police inspector revealed yesterday.

Temporary Inspector Paul Cording, of North Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Group, said that alongside drink-driving and speeding, driving while using a phone was one of the chief causes of accidents on the nation’s roads.

He warned that motorists who distracted by using their phones risk being involved in serious accidents and causing harm to themselves and others.

He said: “Drivers should be under no illusions that we will deal with offenders in a pro-active and robust manner.

“Using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving is one of the ‘fatal four’ contributory factors, along with speeding, drink-driving and not wearing seatbelts, that cause the highest number of fatal or serious collisions.

“At the very least you can expect to have three penalty points placed on your licence along with a £100 fine. But drivers need to think about the consequences of their actions not only to themselves but to other innocent drivers, road users and pedestrians,” he added.

It is illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices and Insp Cording’s comments come as The Harrogate District Road Safety Group has launched a crackdown on drivers who use mobiles when they are driving in the area.

The group, which is part of the Harrogate District Community Safety Partnership, is committed to education and awareness to prevent accidents and serious injury on our roads.

The latest campaign includes a high visibility banner outside the fire station on Skipton Road one of the busiest roads in Harrogate. Drivers are being reminded that driving whilst using a mobile phone can result in a fine and penalty points on their licence, they may also see an increase in their insurance premiums.

Campaigners say drivers who use a mobile phone are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them, can fail to see road signs, fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed, are more likely to ‘tailgate’ the vehicle in front, react more slowly and take longer to brake and longer to stop.

Under the law drivers are permitted to use hands-free phones, sat navs and two-way radios.

Temporary Insp Cording added yesterday: “Getting a hand free device fitted to your car is a relatively cheap option compared to a fine, possible disqualification and the risk of a serious accident that could change your life forever.”

However campaigners including The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have also raised concerns about the use of hands free mobiles.

A spokesperson said: “A substantial body of research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing

“Using a hands-free phone while driving does not significantly reduce the risks because the problems are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a phone conversation at the same time as driving,” the spokesperson added.

Research has shown that those using mobile phones are four times more likely to crash if they use a mobile phone while driving and reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50 per cent slower.

The statistics show that even the most careful of drivers can be easily distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration can mean a serious accident.

A spokeswoman for the Harrogate District Community Safety Partnership said yesterday: “If you are the driver, you can only use your phone in a vehicle if you: need to call 999 and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop or when you are safely parked.

“Using hands-free devices when driving you can use hands-free phones, sat-navs and two-way radios when you are driving or riding.

“But if the police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and penalised,” the community safety partnership spokeswoman added yesterday.

Motorists can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if they are caught using a hand-held phone whilst driving or riding.

They face a three penalty points on their licence and a fine of £100.

Drivers suspected of illegally using their mobile while driving could also go to court and face being disqualified from driving or riding and could get a maximum fine of £1,000.

In addition drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500. New drivers could lose their licence if they get six or more penalty points within two years of passing their test.