A total of 77 drivers were stopped and handed tough new penalties as part of a week of action to catch motorists using mobile phones behind the wheel.
Amongst those now facing increased fines and penalty points was a driver who stated he didn’t know how to work his built in hands free kit and a HGV driver caught texting. The HGV driver will also be reported to the North West Traffic Commissioner who has responsibility for issuing operating licences for HGV companies.
In addition, a tradesman who already had 8 points on his licence now faces the prospect of being disqualified at court for exceeding the 12 point maximum.
During the week long operation, 1-7 March, officers targeted major trunk roads and areas where concerns had previously been raised by local communities, to enforce the law, prevent offending and educate those who continue to disregard the safety of other road users.
Marked and un-marked police vehicles were used to identify possible offenders, checkpoints were implemented across the county and officers responded to complaints about persistent offenders.
Targeting this type of unacceptable behaviour on Lancashire’s roads was part of a wider national campaign to clamp down on mobile phone use whilst driving. It also coincided with the implementation of increased penalties for the offence, which are now set at six points and a £200 fine.
For new drivers (within two years of passing their test) this means automatically losing their licence and having to re-apply for a provisional and re-take their theory and driving test.
As well as the 77 caught using their phones, a further 53 people were caught travelling without wearing a seatbelt including a driver with two young children in the car. A total of 52 vehicles were seized from the roadside for a range of reasons including no insurance or no diving licence. Officers along with our Mobile Camera Van Technicians also detected over 200 speeding offences across the county.
Chief Inspector Damian Kitchen said: “We engaged widely with the public last week, through local radio, social media and check sites. The overwhelming feedback is that the public are extremely supportive of the increased penalties and focus on this offence. Indeed a large number advocated bigger fines and penalties.
“The detection of not only so many phone offences, but other offences such as seatbelts and speed offences shows that we still have work to do. The Lancashire Road Safety Partnership is committed through education, engagement and if needed enforcement to drive down casualties ‘towards zero’ on our roads.
“Some of the people caught now face not only increased insurance premiums, but in some cases the potential of losing their jobs. I would rather we catch nobody and see this offence become a thing of the past. This is not about fines and points, it’s about stopping people getting injured on our roads.”
Research shows that when talking on a mobile phone, a driver’s reaction time is nearly 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions and you are four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone when driving.
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “These figures show that there are still too many people on Lancashire’s roads willing to put themselves and others at risk by using a device at the wheel. However, they also show that the police are taking action and using the tougher powers they have available to them.
“When I talk to members of the public about roads policing, people using phones at the wheel is their main complaint. To those taking unacceptable risks the message is clear, the police have the powers to tackle this and will take action against you. Don’t risk people’s lives or losing your licence.”
In support of the tougher national stance, the constabulary will no longer offer education courses to drivers caught using their phone as an alternative to a fine and points. Those caught will automatically be issued with a penalty notice or be reported to court, depending on the circumstances of the offence.
It is hoped that the tougher penalties will act as a deterrent and encourage people to think before they pick up a phone whilst driving, realising the dangers and potential life changing consequences.
Activity will continue throughout the year to target motorists and to raise awareness through on-going social media campaigns.