Suffolk: 5,000 drivers still refuse to put down their mobile phones

THE head of roads policing in Suffolk and Norfolk has pledged to continue to crackdown on motorists who use their mobile phones at the wheel after figures revealed that more than 5,000 people were fined last year.

A law banning people from using hand-held phones while driving came into force in 2006, but figures from a Freedom of Information request show that more drivers were caught breaking the law in Norfolk and Suffolk in 2011 compared to previous years.

A request to police forces in Suffolk and Norfolk revealed that 5,336 people were fined for using their mobile phones while driving in the two counties last year, compared to 4,654 in 2010 and 4,632 being caught in 2009.

Chief Insp Chris Spinks, head of Suffolk and Norfolk’s roads policing unit, said officers were battling against a growing culture of people being dependent on their mobile phones and smart phones for business and social use.

However, the two police forces took the matter seriously and would continue to run campaigns to enforce the mobile phone law and educate drivers, which was causing an increase in the number of fines.

“It is scientifically and statistically proven that it is one of the four main causes of crashes and we are trying to get the message across that it is dangerous and it is causing collisions and deaths.

“We are fighting against the fact that more people have phones and they are not just for making a phone call, they are now used for texting, emailing and all sorts of other things. People are so used to using mobile phones and are a major part of people’s lives that they do not realise they are using it,” he said.

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Drivers who get caught using a mobile while at the wheel face a �60 fine and three points on their licence.

However, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe suggested earlier this year that the punishment should be raised to six penalty points to deter motorists and help improve road safety.

Cracking down on mobile phones is one of the top priorities for officers at the Suffolk and Norfolk roads policing unit as part of the “fatal four” identified by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) roads policing strategy up until 2015, said Chief Insp Spinks. Speeding, drink- driving and seat-belts are the other priorities.

Chief Insp Spinks said officers would continue to run operations on busy trunk roads like the A11 and A14 using a tractor unit to film HGV drivers using their mobile phones or laptops at the wheel. He added that it was still perceived to be a “petty” offence by the public.