Phone users behind the wheel still putting drivers at risk on Essex roads

Drivers still using mobiles at the wheel in Essex

Drivers still using mobiles at the wheel in Essex - Credit: PA

More than 3,500 people have been stopped and fined in Essex in the past year for using mobile phones and other devices while driving, new figures reveal today.

Police have held a number of high-profile campaigns in recent years to make people aware of the dangers of using hand-held devices – saying reaction times while using a phone are 30% worse than for driving while drunk.

The figures for 2014 – disclosed as part of a Freedom of Information request – show that 3,700 drivers gained £100 fines and three penalty points for using a hand-held device on the county’s roads.

However, four years ago police issued 9,133 fixed penalty notices, and in 2012, 6,800 notices.

It is not clear whether the drop in the number of people being caught is down to improved behaviour of drivers, or the reduction in police resources with recent figures having shown a 71% drop in traffic officers between 2010 and 2014.

Even so, a spokesman from RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) said it was essential police continued to focus on the issue.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety, said: “Research has firmly established that using a mobile phone while driving adversely affects driver performance. Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them, fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed and react more slowly, taking longer to stop.

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“Using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of crashing, and injuring or killing innocent people.

“Sadly, despite legislation which makes it illegal to do so, many people do still use a mobile phone behind the wheel, and do not consider the consequences of what could happen.”

Experts say some of the worst offenders are those who drive for their business and can least afford to lose their licence.

A spokeswoman for Essex police said: “Research continues to show that talking on a mobile phone while driving is extremely dangerous as it affects concentration and ability to react to dangerous situations.

“You are four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving.

“Road safety officers take this very seriously and continue to target motorists who are seen to be using a mobile phone while driving.”