Motorists 'ignoring mobile phone laws'

RISING numbers of Suffolk motorists are flouting the law and putting lives at risk by using their mobile phones while driving despite tough new legislation, it has emerged.

RISING numbers of Suffolk motorists are flouting the law and putting lives at risk by using their mobile phones while driving despite tough new legislation, it has emerged.

Police and road safety charities spoke of their concern last night that the number of drivers caught breaking the law had grown over the past six months - reaching a peak in June, when more than 10 motorists every day were stopped for the offence.

And the sister of a man who was killed in a crash on the A14 while a lorry driver was reading a text message appealed for anyone considering using their phone while driving to think seriously about the consequences.

The law was tightened in February in a bid to deter motorists from using a handheld mobile phone while driving.

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Drivers now face a £60 fine and three penalty points if they are caught.

But the new laws appear to have had no effect in Suffolk.

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In June alone, 316 motorists were caught using a mobile phone while driving on the county's roads - a rise of 35% on the previous month.

Chief Inspector Martin Barnes-Smith, head of Suffolk Constabulary's roads policing unit, described the rise as “very disappointing” and said the legislation was in place to save lives.

He said: “The figures are not going down which is disappointing and shows that people are still not listening to the advice given out.

“Again, we want to express our disappointment that motorists in Suffolk are still continuing to use mobile phones while driving.

“We have continued the message of how unsafe this practice is and would like to stress again how dangerous using your mobile phone while driving is and you are putting the lives of yourself and others at risk if you continue to do so. Please do not do it.”

The rising figures were described as “shocking” by Marion Hawes, whose brother Brian Mills, 58, died in a crash at Bramford in July last year, when lorry driver Adrian Burrows ploughed into his car as he read a text message from his girlfriend.

Burrows, 41, from Baylham, who had previously been warned about using his mobile phone in his cab, was jailed for three years and banned from driving for four years when he appeared in court earlier this year.

But Mrs Hawes, from Diss, said last night she would be writing to the Government to demand tougher sentences for mobile phone offenders.

“The courts need to deal more harshly with these people,” she said. “Anyone considering using a mobile phone (while driving) should stop and think about the untold damage they could cause.”

Dianne Ferreira, press officer for road safety charity Brake, said she was not surprised by how little impact the new legislation had made.

“Although Brake welcomed the increase in penalty and attention brought to this deadly crime we didn't feel it went far enough,” she said.

“Brake is calling for a £1,000 fine and six penalty points. A hike from £30 to £60 is not very significant.

“If you can afford a car and a mobile phone it will not hit you in the pocket. People are not taking it seriously as a crime.

“We see incidents of serious injury and death by people answering telephone calls or texting while they drive.

“We must get the message out to people through enforcement of the law that this is a very dangerous crime and people must stop doing it.”

Research by the Department for Transport says motorists are four times more likely to have an accident when driving while on the phone - and over a quarter of people admitted answering or making a work-related call or texting while driving.

Young people are most at risk with 16 to 34-year-olds twice as likely than over-55s to keep their mobile on while driving.

Number of tickets issued by Suffolk police to motorists driving while using a handheld mobile phone in 2007:

January: 286

February: 274

March: 278

April: 285

May: 234

June: 316

July: 271

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