Police catch 47 drivers an hour during mobile phone crackdown – The Guardian

Almost 50 drivers were caught every hour during a police crackdown on the illegal use of mobile phones at the wheel.

Officers handed out 7,966 fixed penalty notices for the offence in a week-long campaign in November. The tally – equivalent to a rate of 47 an hour – is the highest yet for a week of enforcement on “distraction driving”. By comparison, the totals for three previous initiatives were 2,690 in May 2015, 2,276 in September 2015, and 2,323 in May last year. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) released the figures in advance of a fresh clampdown which starts on Monday.

Thirty-six forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland took part in the November campaign, stopping 10,012 vehicles. As well as detecting nearly 8,000 mobile phone offences, police delivered hundreds of verbal warnings while 68 court summonses were issued. Officers also identified 117 other “distraction” offences.

It is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, with those falling foul of the rules facing penalty points and a fine. Calls for efforts to curb the practice intensified last year in the wake of high-profile cases and research indicating that it is widespread.

This week, constabularies around the country will be running targeted operations and education campaigns. The crackdown will include patrols using unmarked vans, high vantage points and helmet cameras, as well as community “spotters” to highlight hotspots and report repeat offenders to police.

Suzette Davenport, the NPCC lead for roads policing, said: “This week, forces will be working to make driving distracted as socially unacceptable as drink-driving through enforcing strong deterrents and powerful messages to make people think twice about their driving habits.

“Encouraging results from last year’s campaign against mobile phone use show how effective new tactics and innovative approaches can be. Officers will continue to use intelligence-led tactics to target police activity and resources and catch repeat offenders.

“Forces will be working throughout the year to tackle this behaviour by motorists with national partners and the public. Remember: when at the wheel, your calls or texts can wait. Keep your eyes on the road.”

Under plans announced last year, the Department for Transport will introduce legislation doubling the punishment for using a handheld mobile phone while driving – with the fine rising from £100 to £200 and penalty points increasing from three to six.

Ministers have also set out proposals under which motorists who cause death while on a mobile phone will face tougher sentences.

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