TRAFFIC cops will be out in force across the region next week as part of a national clampdown on drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.
Marked and unmarked units from the West Midlands Police Force Traffic and Central Motorway Police Group will patrol the region’s motorways and A-roads from Saturday 23 May to Friday 29 May on the look-out for people making calls, texting or accessing the internet from devices while driving.
They’ll be supported by traffic ‘spotters’ in plain clothes who’ll be stationed at major road junctions to identify offenders, while a police HGV unit will give officers a lofty view to catch any truckers flouting the law.
Last year West Midlands Police issued in excess of 2,500 fixed penalty tickets to drivers for using phones at the wheel, while government figures suggest mobile phone use will soon be the biggest killer on UK roads.
Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman, from West Midlands Police Force Traffic, said: “It’s disappointing so many people are flouting a law introduced 10 years ago − and by doing so are putting themselves, their passengers, and other road users in danger.
“There is no definable profile for offenders: there’s the Facebook browser, the businessman calling ahead to say he’ll be late for a meeting, the text message addict, and even people watching video clips while driving.
“It’s about time the message started to get through and it’s a simple one – don’t reach for your phone while driving. If that phone call or text message can’t wait then pull over and do it safely.”
Offenders can expect three points on their licence and a £100 fixed penalty − but any repeat offenders or particularly negligent drivers could find themselves with a date in court.
A traffic study last year found 1.6 per cent of drivers in England and Scotland were observed using a hand-held mobile while driving − with van drivers (2.7 per cent) being the most likely road users to offend.
Most were spotted with the phone away from their ear, suggesting it was being used to send or receive a text or to access social media.
Inspector Sion Hathaway from CMPG (Central Motorway Police Group) added: “People seem to think if they balance the phone on their lap and talk hands-free that it’s acceptable − but that’s not the case, it’s still a clear distraction. And of course texting or accessing the internet on your phone is very dangerous.
“Studies have found driver reaction times when using a phone are double what they would be normally and that the risk of a collision increases four-fold. Driving ability generally is reduced to something similar to that observed for drivers at the legal alcohol limit.”