Drivers will now receive six points on their driving licence and a £200 fine – double the previous penalties. These changes will have a significant impact on young drivers in particular as they risk having their driving licence revoked following a first offence. Motorists in the East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS) region – Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire – will no longer be offered the opportunity to go on a driver awareness course.
The four police forces that make up EMOpSS will be working with road safety partnerships, the RAC and THINK! during a week long campaign (from Wednesday, 1 March to Tuesday, 7 March) to increase awareness of the changes to the legislation.
Enforcement action will be taking place throughout the week across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire with officers out on patrol in marked and unmarked cars.
Chief Inspector Mark Garthwaite who is the lead for roads policing within EMOpSS, said: “We hope that these tough new penalties will make motorists realise that driving while using their phone is as unacceptable as drink driving. What is concerning is that drivers aren’t just making phone calls, unbelievably they are texting and using the internet as well! Far too often we see the tragic consequences of other motorists’ selfish actions which can tear families apart. Please don’t take that risk”.
Northamptonshire Police Safer Roads Team Engagement Officer Kamila Kemblowska, said: “In Northamptonshire, we’re planning a range of both enforcement and engagement activities. We are running a community engagement day on 15 March, when we will be educating motorists about the new laws. 96% of the public agree that mobile phone use while driving is unacceptable – but 31% still admit to doing it.
“In Northamptonshire alone, 591 drivers were detected using their mobile phones while driving in the past 12 months. It’s therefore vitally important that people understand the risks associated with using their mobile while driving. We are working hard to change people’s perception as– worryingly- some still think that taking their eyes off the road for a few seconds won’t affect them.
“Mobile phone and distractions have always been part of our education, engagement and enforcement efforts, and together with our partners from Fire and Rescue service and the Highways, we will continue to reinforce those messages in schools, communities and in our day to day work.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, said:“These new penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence and will strengthen the deterrent against using a mobile phone at the wheel. We need people to understand that this is not a minor offence that they can get away with.
“Across this week officers will continue to use innovative and intelligence-led tactics to catch and penalise people who are driving while distracted by a mobile phone. However, this is an attitudinal problem that we cannot simply enforce away by putting more officers on the roads.
“This issue has to begin with personal responsibility by drivers. We know that people are more likely to report other drivers using a phone than to view themselves as guilty of it. That has to change.
“Tougher penalties are a step in the right direction, but police forces and partners are working this week to make it socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone at the wheel. It’s about more than what you might have to pay as a penalty – you could hurt or kill an innocent person on the roads by checking a text or taking a call.
“Don’t do it – and don’t let others take the risk either.”
You can follow the campaign on social using the hashtag #itcanwait and the RAC campaign with #PhoneSafe and @PhoneSafe