Police crackdown on texting at the wheel

THE number of motorists caught using their mobile phones while driving in Essex has jumped by nearly 15%, new figures have revealed.

James Hore

THE number of motorists caught using their mobile phones while driving in Essex has jumped by nearly 15%, new figures have revealed.

Between January and July Essex Police issued more than 5,000 tickets for using a mobile phone whilst driving, compared with the same period last year, when 4,440 people were given fixed penalty notices.

The 14% rise has prompted a county-wide campaign by the Essex Casualty Reduction Board.

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It has launch a campaign including a hard-hitting radio advertisement in which a young man speaks as if writing a text message, which states, “textin when drivin can cause…” followed by the noise of a crash.

Essex Police will also be stepping up enforcement activities with motorists warned they can expect to see more police checking for mobile phone use “than ever before”.

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Educational events are being held with road safety officers speaking with motorists about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.

People are four times more likely to crash if they use a phone whilst driving, according to research from the Department for Transport.

Norman Hume, chairman of Essex Casualty Reduction Board, said people were continuing to ignore warnings and said the best thing to do is simply switch off phones whilst driving.

He said: “Over recent months it has become quite clear an increasing number of motorists are ignoring the dangers and continue to risk their own and other's safety by texting or phoning at the wheel.

“Breaking the law risks death or serious injury. It also means a fine and three points on your licence. If you are a new driver you only need to be caught twice to lose your licence.

“Mobile phones and driving do not mix. You should never take the risk. The best advice is to switch off before you drive off.”

The penalty for offenders is a �60 fine and three penalty points on a licence but if the case goes to court fines can be �1,000 or �2,500 if driving a bus, coach or heavy goods vehicle.

Essex Casualty Reduction Board achieved a 20 per cent reduction the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county's roads between 2007 and 2008.

During 2007 there were 884 killed or seriously injured casualties in Essex, compared with 706 in 2008.

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