More than 100 motorists have been caught using their mobile phone at the wheel in just two days – as traffic cops use new stronger penalties to crackdown on distracted drivers in the West Midlands.
Officers from the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) are enforcing the tougher Government laws which mean a £200 fine and six penalty points for those caught.
A week-long police crackdown has been launched by CMPG – which is made up of officers from West Midlands, Staffordshire and West Mercia police forces – to coincide with the increased punishments which came into force on Wednesday (1 March).
There have already been 117 drivers caught for being distracted at the wheel on routes around the region – including busy stretches such as the M6, M5 and M42.
Both marked and unmarked vehicles are being used to catch motorists illegally using their phones or any other mobile technology to make calls, text or browse the internet.
This includes a white, HGV cab which allows officers to be at the same level as lorry drivers to spot those breaking the law; and look down on unsuspecting motorists in cars or other light vehicles. An officer alongside the driver is able to spot offenders and record footage for evidence.
Inspector Sion Hathaway, from CMPG, said: “Using a mobile phone has been illegal since 2003 but some motorists are still putting their own and others’ lives at risk by driving while using a hand-held device.
“It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to cause a collision and with these stronger punishments you now stand to get six points on your licence, plus the likelihood of being banned from the road if caught twice.
“Being distracted can put road users in real danger; drivers should ask themselves how they would feel if someone was seriously injured or killed as a result of not paying attention while driving? And it could end up with the offender spending several years in prison.”
Studies have found driver reaction times when using a mobile phone are 30 per cent slower than someone who is just above the drink drive limit; and 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions.
Research also indicates that drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash involving damage to property or serious injury.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who brought in the original ban on driving while on a mobile phone back in 2003, added: “These tougher penalties are welcomed by all sensible road users as driving while using a handheld mobile phone is potentially lethal.
“This is about saving lives. Studies have found that motorists who talk on their handheld phone while driving are four times more like to crash. Statistics also show that in just five years there were more than 3,000 accidents involving a driver on the phone.
“These tougher penalties are therefore only a good thing – and the vast majority of the public agrees.
“But I want it to go further. I’d like to see local groups benefit from the higher fines. It is only right that the fines from such reckless drivers help pay to keep our roads safe.”