Drivers flout new phone law
THOUSANDS of people in the region are flouting a new law banning people from using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.Nearly 2,500 drivers in Suffolk and Essex have been fined for driving while using their telephones illegally since the legislation came into force on December 1, last year.
THOUSANDS of people in the region are flouting a new law banning people from using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.
Nearly 2,500 drivers in Suffolk and Essex have been fined for driving while using their telephones illegally since the legislation came into force on December 1, last year.
Both police forces in the region have now backed a Government move to increase the fine from £30 to £60, and to penalise drivers with points on their licences.
Provisional figures show that about 894 people were given fixed penalty notices in Suffolk from December 1 last year to yesterday inclusively.
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A further three people were fined for using a mobile telephone illegally while supervising a provisional licence holder.
In Essex, the latest figures show 1,537 drivers were given tickets between December 1, 2003, and September 30.
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Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey, from Suffolk police's road traffic unit, warned people if they use their phone illegally while driving and are involved in a collision, particularly if it causes serious injury, police would seek to prosecute them for dangerous driving.
If they crash and kill someone when talking on a mobile and driving they could be sent to prison for death by dangerous driving, he added.
“That's what we are encouraging people to think about - not to think about the £30 ticket but what will happen and the lives that could be affected,” he said.
Ch Insp Pawsey said Suffolk police were uncertain what to expect after the law came into effect but the figures showed a “significant” number of people were not complying with the law.
He added: “You will always have some people who will complain about the law.
“Most law-abiding drivers understand that while driving you should concentrate on what you're doing and not fiddle about with your mobile.
“It appears that using your mobile phone while driving is a common practice. “Lots of people are doing it and sooner or later they need to get the message.
“The message is: do not use your mobile phone while driving. If it does ring while you are driving give yourself time to pull over in a safe place to get back to the caller.
“Officially the Government advice is to switch off before you drive off.”
A spokesman for Essex Police added: “The figures show there is cause for concern.
“There does seem to be a hardcore of motorists who are refusing to follow sensible safety procedures.
“We will continue to issue fixed penalty fines because their actions are unsafe.
“I think people understand the law but, like dangerous driving, they do not have an appreciation of the potential risks they are causing to themselves and other people.”
Almost 5,000 fines have been issued in the East of England one-year on from the ban.
Yesterday - on the eve of the anniversary of the ban - the
Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, announced further proposed changes to the law on using mobile phones, as well as other new measures to coincide with the first reading of the new Road Safety Bill in parliament.
The Government said the new mobile telephone law has been successful and the number of offenders had fallen by 25%.
The new bill proposes an increase in the fixed penalty to £60 with three penalty points. Disqualification is also an option if the case goes to court.
The new bill also puts forward new measures to tackle drink-driving, and a clampdown on uninsured and irresponsible driving, including a flexible system of fixed penalties for speeding.
The announcement came as Suffolk police released the latest drink-drive figures.
They showed more than 1,300 people have been caught flouting the law in just 11 months, a sharp rise on the figures for 2003.
Up to the same period last year, 140 fewer motorists had been caught behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
Chief Insp Pawsey said he was “disappointed” by the drink-drive figures.
He added: “They're going to wreck someone else's life and they could wreck their own by committing this offence.
“If they're caught it would mean a driving ban and a heavy fine at the very least.”