Police to crack down on mobile-using drivers this week

Brake anti-distraction campaign calls for hand-free ban too

by John Stevenson   November 18, 2013  

Driver using mobile (CC licensed image by lukys1:Flickr)

The distraction of talking and texting while driving has been implicated in many recent cyclist casualties. Road safety charity Brake is this week calling on drivers to turn off their phones as police launch a week-long crackdown.

Brake says that 575,000 drivers have points for using a mobile while driving or being otherwise distracted. Almost a quarter of road deaths were caused by motorists who were distracted while driving, including 17 deaths directly attributable to drivers talking on the phone while driving and 548 casualties.

Tragic examples include the death of Anthony Hilson, who was hit from behind on September 9th 2012 when he was  by Victoria McClure on the A4 Bath Road in Twyford, Berkshire.

Ms McClure was adjusting her satnav and the prosecution estimated Mr Hilson would have been in her field of view for at least 18 seconds before the collision.

On November 7 2011, Hope Fennell was crushed to death by a lorry driven by Darren Foster  as she rode her bike across a pedestrian crossing on Kings Heath High Street in Birmingham.

Foster had been exchanging text messages with his girlfriend while driving round the city and failed to see Hope as she rode out into the road.

As the girl lay dying under his vehicle, Foster attempted to delete the messages in an attempt to cover up.

It’s not just handling devices that causes distractions. Brake says that talking on hands-free is just as risky as hand-held and cites research by distraction expert Dr Amy Guo at Newcastle University that shows the harder you have to concentrate on a task, such as dealing with work-related calls, the slower your reactions.

Police across the UK are this week implmenting a campaign against using a mobile while driving. The offence carries a £100 fine and three licence points for a first offence.

Association of Chief Police Officers head of roads policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said: "As technology has advanced, we've seen a change in the behaviour of some drivers who are allowing themselves to become distracted and putting themselves and others at risk.

Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive said: "We're living in an age when being constantly connected is the norm; more and more of us have smartphones, and find it hard to switch off, even for a minute. Many people who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving.

“We're calling on UK drivers to tune into road safety: turn off your phone or put it in the boot, and never try to multi-task at the wheel. We're also appealing to everyone to refuse to chat to someone on the phone who's driving, to help them arrive safely.”

Brake has also called for the use of hand-free devices to be banned, but the Department for Transport says it has no plans to ban hands-free systems.

A DfT spokesman told The Times: “Road safety is a top priority and the Government is determined that police have the powers they need to tackle any form of dangerous driving, including anyone using a mobile phone at the wheel.

“Police can stop and arrest any driver if they believe they are not in charge of their vehicle, and this includes if the driver is using a hands-free mobile device.”

20 user comments

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There is plenty of research showing the dangers of cellphone use while driving and also showing hands-free kits provide next to no safety benefits. But since using a cellphone while driving has around the same risk levels of being over the limit for alcohol, why are the penalties not similar?

A driver caught over the limit for alcohol in the UK can expect a 12 month ban, a fine and a hefty jump in insurance costs when the suspension is completed. Being caught for using a phone while driving results in a much smaller fine and just 3 points on the licence I think (correct me if I'm wrong regarding the points Stumps).

Until the penalties for offenders are similar to those for drinking and driving, people will carry on using phones while driving. Bear in mind that being caught over the limit for alcohol while driving in Sweden could result in a 6 month prison sentence.

Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by a factor of 28 according to research. The penalties for offenders should be made to be more appropriate.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2534 posts]
18th November 2013 - 12:44

32 Likes

Good, and about time. I still think the penalties are too lenient though. I thought there'd been research that suggested talking on a handheld mobile had about the same effect on ability to drive safely as being at the drink drive limit, and texting / facebook etc about the same as being double the limit. If that's the case the penalties should be the same. It's an automatic ban for drink driving isn't it? If people started losing their licences they'd think twice about using their phones. At the moment there's too little chance of being caught and the penalty is insufficient to deter people.

posted by graham_f [147 posts]
18th November 2013 - 12:52

18 Likes

Quote:
Police to crack down on mobile-using drivers this week

Just this week then.
Oh so that's OK. All back to normal by December.

Worried

Whatever happened to this thing called "enforcing the law". ie, doing it all the time instead of one well-publicised "crackdown"? Makes it sound all grand and pro-active whereas the actual answer to "we're having a crackdown" should be "what, doing your jobs like you're supposed to?"

(and yes, I have some sympathies with the police for being massively overstretched and under-resourced)

posted by crazy-legs [634 posts]
18th November 2013 - 13:06

20 Likes

What concerns me is usage of smartphones, quite often held under the steering wheel, so the driver has to properly divert his attention.

I've had a driver overtake playing a game on his phone - held in the centre of the steering wheel by his thumbs. I then saw him run a red light about 300 metres futher on. I *so* wish I'd been able to capture this some how.

posted by fennesz [116 posts]
18th November 2013 - 13:29

9 Likes

£5000 fine and 12 month ban. That should do it. Its the cultural issue we have where if my phone rings, I must answer it.....no, you don't.

Texting whilst driving, you have got to be nuts.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [505 posts]
18th November 2013 - 13:35

20 Likes

fennesz wrote:
What concerns me is usage of smartphones, quite often held under the steering wheel, so the driver has to properly divert his attention.

I've had a driver overtake playing a game on his phone - held in the centre of the steering wheel by his thumbs. I then saw him run a red light about 300 metres futher on. I *so* wish I'd been able to capture this some how.

On my club ride on Saturday, I saw 6 drivers using mobiles. Cycling around town at the weekend with my girlfriend, I saw dozens of drivers using them.

It is endemic.

This morning on BBC Breakfast, there was a Prof. Phil Blythe talking about research that shows even using hands free is a major distraction to driving so until using any kind of device whilst driving is banned, with hefty penalties that are regularly enforced, it is pointless even having this discussion.

Ive never seen someone eating cereal though!! Wink

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [691 posts]
18th November 2013 - 13:46

16 Likes

What has this got to do with cycling? No need to fuel the cyclist-motorist hate.

posted by alexholt3 [52 posts]
18th November 2013 - 14:17

10 Likes

I am yet to go on a ride not having seen someone on the phone - or even worse - reading a kindle in slow moving traffic around town yesterday on the Finchley Road At Wits End

The problem is huge and not one that can be delt with over any particular week. It needs constant pressure from the authorities along with constant media attention to make the change. Similar to how they managed to make drinking and driving socially unacceptable (A nudged mindset) back in the late eighties.

It'll take many years but I have faith it will happen.

THere is only bad choice of clothing, not bad weather. MTFU and get out there and ride.
A little mantra for me in the winter months

posted by stealfwayne [115 posts]
18th November 2013 - 14:22

9 Likes

Ah, this could explain the PCSO I spotted loitering at a road junction this morning closely watching each and every car drive past.

It all helps. It's all a step in the right direction.

posted by ped [190 posts]
18th November 2013 - 14:53

13 Likes

Are English police constantly cracking down on something or is it just me? There is literally an article a week about their newest crack down

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
18th November 2013 - 16:53

8 Likes

alexholt3 wrote:
What has this got to do with cycling?

Did you miss the examples of cyclists killed by distracted drivers?

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1517 posts]
18th November 2013 - 17:10

13 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
alexholt3 wrote:
What has this got to do with cycling?

Did you miss the examples of cyclists killed by distracted drivers?

True, I just don't agree with or buy into the whole "I'm a cyclist and we are superior" thing. It goes both ways, and the media on both sides are too specific. How about we look at cyclists using phones and mp3 players while riding?

posted by alexholt3 [52 posts]
18th November 2013 - 17:14

11 Likes

alexholt3 wrote:
John Stevenson wrote:
alexholt3 wrote:
What has this got to do with cycling?

Did you miss the examples of cyclists killed by distracted drivers?

True, I just don't agree with or buy into the whole "I'm a cyclist and we are superior" thing. It goes both ways, and the media on both sides are too specific. How about we look at cyclists using phones and mp3 players while riding?

Can you provide figures for people killed by cyclists and the numbers of those deaths where the use of a mobile phone or MP3 player has been shown to be a major contributory factor?

posted by farrell [1867 posts]
18th November 2013 - 17:27

15 Likes

Maybe if the law allowed for the confiscation of cars for a few months of those drivers had been using a mobile whilst driving it may sharpen a few peoples ideas up.

Why just this week. Surely any offence that could cause death an injury needs concentrating on all the time.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [297 posts]
18th November 2013 - 17:55

9 Likes

Simply put they know they're not going to get caught and even if they are ( a very unlikely situation), the fines are relatively small. it costs more to fill the tank up.

The first problem is because the number of traffic police has decreased year on year, it' much cheaper to catch people speeding and it makes the figures look good.

The second problem is even easier, increase the find to £1000 or the car, which ever is higher.

It won' happen of course because in government speak motorist = hardworking family man = good = untouchable

posted by GREGJONES [223 posts]
18th November 2013 - 20:47

9 Likes

We target drivers using their mobiles each and every day whilst out and about but i have to agree unless the fines and points increase then people (and it's mostly males) will continue to drive whilst using their phones.

At the mo its a £300 ticket for no insurance (and having your car uplifted) so why not similar for mobile use, after all it all goes to Govt coffers so they will be better off by far ?

I have to say i dont give out tickets for the offence i report everyone to go to court which generally ends up in a higher fine or points.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3171 posts]
18th November 2013 - 21:26

7 Likes

alexholt3 wrote:
John Stevenson wrote:
alexholt3 wrote:
What has this got to do with cycling?

Did you miss the examples of cyclists killed by distracted drivers?

True, I just don't agree with or buy into the whole "I'm a cyclist and we are superior" thing. It goes both ways, and the media on both sides are too specific. How about we look at cyclists using phones and mp3 players while riding?

Yep - they're idiots too, just more likely to get themselves killed or injured than killing or injuring someone else.

posted by BikeBud [157 posts]
19th November 2013 - 13:12

1 Like

Fines and points need to be higher.

The police have no ability to prosecute someone unless they witness it happening. If you take a photo of someone driving and using their phone the police can't and won't use it.

It doesn't help when a truck driver who was using his phone when he killed a cyclist in London had no action taken against him. That pretty much states "don't worry, even if you kill someone you'll be okay".

posted by BikeBud [157 posts]
19th November 2013 - 13:17

8 Likes

Everyone should film along a stretch of road and hand the footage to the police insisting they use video evidence to prosecute. Unfortunately but not unsurprising is that they won't, I believe based on the credibility or fairness of how it was obtained.

I imagine if there was a 'serious' offence being committed, one involving money such as a bank robbery, as opposed to lesser matters like motorist misdemeanours that they'd be only too happy to use my footage for evidence.

Odd how lives are indispensable whilst matters around replaceable objects are valued isn't it?

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [204 posts]
19th November 2013 - 23:58

9 Likes

I'd like to see employers taking a stricter stance on this. When somebody is caught using a phone whilst driving for work it should be treated as gross misconduct (bringing the company into disrepute) and treated as such.

posted by Matt eaton [699 posts]
20th November 2013 - 14:09

3 Likes