A split-second lapse in concentration is all it takes – that’s the message from our road policing officers as they take part in a national mobile phone enforcement campaign this week.
Officers across Essex will be clamping down on mobile phone use behind the wheel between November 14 and 20 as part of a campaign led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
The clamp down follows last week’s announcement that drivers caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel in Essex will no longer be offered educational courses instead of penalty points.
As of Wednesday, November 9, 2016, drivers detected committing the offence for the first time will automatically receive three penalty points on their driving licence and a £100 fine.
Essex Police made the decision to stop offering driver awareness courses following a proposal by the Department for Transport to scrap them in an effort to change driver behaviour.
In 2014, Essex Police officers detected a total of 5094 offences of using a mobile phone behind the wheel. This figure increased to 5702 in 2015. So far this year, 4265 offences have been detected.
Until today those drivers were given a £100 fixed penalty fine and the option of receiving three points on their licence or attending a national educational course. Under the changes, they will no longer be offered the course and will automatically receive the fine and points.
The punishment will double to six points and a £200 fine in 2017.
Essex Police takes mobile phone use behind the wheel seriously 365 days a year but will be tackling the problem during the NPCC week of action and beyond into the Christmas season.
Adam Pipe, Casualty Reduction Manager at Essex Police, said: “We take this issue extremely seriously and wholeheartedly support this campaign.
“Working with our partners, including the Safer Essex Roads Partnership, we run weekly road safety operations throughout the county and I am always disappointed by the number of drivers who refuse to take notice of the law and continue to use their mobile phones behind the wheel.
“Using any mobile phone when driving is dangerous. Mobile phones, hand held or otherwise, divert your attention away from the road and mean drivers are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards on the roads.
“Hazards on the roads can emerge very quickly and just a split-second lapse in concentration can result in a crash, serious injury or worse.
“Only two weeks ago a lorry driver was convicted and jailed for 10 years for causing the deaths of a mother and three children in a crash on the A34 in Berkshire. The court heard that the driver had been scrolling through music on his mobile phone when he crashed into the family’s stationary car.
“It is illegal to use a handheld mobile device when driving whether you are moving, stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. That doesn’t just mean making or receiving a call, it means reading a text, checking your social media channels or programming any kind of sat nav app.
“It is not illegal to use a hands-free phone while driving but even hands-free can divert your attention from the road and you can be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The penalties are the same as being caught using a handheld phone.
“Driving comes with responsibility and there is no excuse for poor driving.”
Follow #noexcuse on @essexpoliceuk and @EPAdamPipe on Twitter throughout the campaign.