Police anger as drivers ignore road laws

ALMOST 50,000 motorists were caught flouting the laws of the road in Suffolk last year, with huge rises in the number of drivers caught using handheld mobile phones and not wearing a seatbelt.

By Danielle Nuttall

ALMOST 50,000 motorists were caught flouting the laws of the road in Suffolk last year, with huge rises in the number of drivers caught using handheld mobile phones and not wearing a seatbelt.

Despite a major police crackdown on reckless driving, officers in the county caught 2,613 drivers using their phones during 2006 - up 54% compared to 2005.

Meanwhile, 34,442 motorists were punished for speeding in the county - resulting in more than £2million of fines - and the number of drivers caught wearing no seatbelt rose 27% to 3,522.


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The alarming statistics emerged as the death toll on the county's roads this year already stands at 15 - more than one fatality a week.

Chief Inspector Martin Barnes-Smith, of Suffolk police's road traffic unit, said he was disappointed drivers were still continuing to ignore the law.

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But he said every officer in the force, whether traffic or not, would pursue and prosecute motorists to ensure the road safety message was heeded.

“I'm disappointed with the figures. Drivers need to be responsible for their behaviour which is why we are giving out the road safety message in literature,” he said.

“We need you to stop using mobile phones while driving, wear your seatbelt, and stop speeding because that will reduce casualties on Suffolk's roads.

“I'm disappointed that so many people's lives have been affected by fatalities on the county's roads.

“Despite being aware of how committing offences does have a big effect on their lives, drivers still go ahead and do it.

“When people comply with the law, then they will have safe motoring. When they do not, we will deal with them.

“I can live with being tough if I help save people's lives.”

Overall, 49,000 drivers were punished last year for motoring offences in Suffolk, although this was lower than in 2005 which saw 62,335 punished.

Last year, any motorist caught using a handheld mobile phone received a fixed penalty notice of £30.

But due to the high number of motorists flouting the law nationally, the penalty changed at the end of last month and is now dealt with via a £60 fine and three licence points.

Ch Insp Barnes-Smith said: “Officers are now more focused on dealing with this offence.

“We do have causes of collisions in the county down to people on mobile phones. It has now become every cop's issue, not just the guys and the girls in traffic cars.

“All of Suffolk's officers are responsible for dealing with the enforcement of traffic legislation.”

Ch Insp Barnes-Smith said the number of people caught speeding in the county last year, either by police or cameras, was “huge” but he said this was almost 6,000 fewer than 2005 and was a step in the right direction.

“Everybody is aware if you drive within the limit then you have more time to react and if people are involved in a collision, less injury or death is caused,” he said.

“Although death on the roads increased last year, the number of serious injury accidents was the lowest ever.

“I'm still going to task my officers to go out on the roads of Suffolk and enforce the offences which do have a major impact on road safety.”

Motoring offences fact file

Figures for fixed-penalty notices issued to motorists in Suffolk during 2006

ENDORSABLE OFFENCES carrying a £60 fine.

Total: 35,247

Driving licence-related offences: 143

Vehicle or part of vehicle in dangerous or defective condition: 182

Speed limit offences including offences involving camera devices: 34,442

Neglect of traffic directions: 340

Neglect of pedestrian rights: 41

Obstruction, waiting or parking offences: 4

Offences peculiar to motorcyclists: 0

NON-ENDORSABLE OFFENCES carrying a £30 fine:

Total: 13,774

Offences involving careless driving: 116

Use of handheld mobile phone while driving: 2,613

Vehicle registration and excise licence offences: 792

Vehicle or part of vehicle in dangerous or defective condition: 56

Neglect of traffic directions: 713

Neglect of pedestrian rights: 26

Obstruction, waiting and parking offences: 5,417

Load offences: 24

Noise offences: 58

Offences peculiar to motorcyclists: 32

Miscellaneous motoring offences: 136

Seatbelt offences: 3,522

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