Yorkshire’s biggest police force are putting more traffic officers out on patrol this week in a bid to catch motorists putting their lives at risk by using mobile phones at the wheel.
West Yorkshire Police say thousands of people a year are still breaking the law by using their mobiles while driving, 11 years after it was made illegal.
The warning comes as a survey reveals the extent of risky overtaking on the nation’s roads, with a fifth of men admitting passing another car when they were not sure the road ahead was clear.
The danger of using a mobile phone while driving is being highlighted by police in Yorkshire as part of a campaign led by the National Police Chiefs Council.
It is one of the ‘fatal four’, the name given to the most common circumstances leading to death on the roads and also including speeding, not wearing a seat belt and drink or drug driving.
Research shows driving while using a phone makes motorists four times more likely to be involved in a collision and studies by the Transport Research Laboratory suggest using a hand-held mobile while driving can be more dangerous than drink-driving.
Humberside have carried out an enforcement campaign throughout May targeting motorists who use their mobile phones while driving.
Inspector Joanne Field, who leads West Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Unit, said: “The law banning the use of mobile phones while driving has been in place for over 11 years now but we are still seeing thousands of people each year flouting the law and endangering not only themselves but other road users as well.
“The risks associated with using a phone while behind the wheel are very clear. During my police career I’ve seen the fatal consequences of people who’ve been distracted by using a phone while driving on far too many occasions.
“Make no mistake, there is an absolute danger to sending that text message or making that quick call while you’re in charge of a vehicle.”
Officers from the force’s Roads Policing Units will this week mount extra proactive patrols to target those who persist with using a mobile phone while driving.
Footage released by West Yorkshire Police today shows a 25-year-old male motorist swerving from side to side while using a mobile phone on the M62. The offence was committed on the M62 junction 30 Normanton towards Pontefract in October 2012. He was convicted of driving without due care and attention and given six points and £75 fine.
According to figures released this year by the force, the number of fines issued for using a mobile telephone while driving dropped sharply in 2014. There were 2,785 fines handed out across the county over the 12 months, compared with 4,571 in 2013 and 4,750 in 2012. Fines issued by the roads policing unit dropped from 3,796 to 2,001 between 2013 and 2014.
Anyone caught using a hand-held phone while driving will get three penalty points on their licence and a fine of £100. Drivers can use a hands-free phone while driving but can still be prosecuted if they are not in proper control of the vehicle. The penalties are same as being caught using a hand-held phone.
Ms Field said: “With so many people now using mobile devices as sat nav systems it’s important to remember that if your car is not safely parked and you are using a hand-held mobile for whatever reason you are breaking the law and your actions have the clear potential to endanger your life and those of other road users. The same rules apply if you’re waiting at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
“Unfortunately, it never takes officers very long to spot people breaking the law. This is not about penalising motorists or generating revenue for the government, it’s about keeping people safe and making them aware of the potentially fatal consequences associated with driving while using a mobile.”
Separately, a survey released by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line Insurance shows up to 80 per cent of drivers have felt endangered by their own overtaking or that of another vehicle.
Nearly all drivers have witnessed a risky overtaking manoeuvre and half see them monthly or more, while 18 per cent admitted they had overtaken when they were not certain if they could safely do so.
The survey, based on responses from 1,000 drivers, showed risky overtaking was most common among male and young drivers, with 21 per cent of men and 39 per cent of 17 to 24-year-olds admitting doing so when they were not sure the road ahead was clear.The risky-overtake figure for women was only 15 per cent.
Rob Miles, director of motor at Direct Line, said: “People die on rural roads in the UK every day and many of these fatal crashes could be prevented. Our own data suggests that young drivers and their passengers are even more likely to be killed on this type of road.”