Police clampdown on mobile phone-using drivers

Driving a car with a phone Since 2007 those caught driving using a phone are given three penalty points and a £60 fine

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Police across Wales have launched a two-week crackdown on motorists who drive while using hand-held mobile phones.

Patrols by all four Welsh forces are being stepped up until 5 October.

Ian Arundale, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, said the aim was to make texting or phoning at the wheel just as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

The campaign follows a powerful road safety video that became an internet hit, created by Newport students.

The short film Cow, starring young actors from Newport Film School, shows a teenager killing four people in a collision when she uses her mobile phone to send a text.

It was seen by more than 7m people after it was posted on YouTube in 2009.

'Zero tolerance'

The new campaign is being led by Dyfed-Powys Police on behalf of the four Welsh forces and hopes to build on the success of Cow.

Since 2007 those caught using a phone while driving are given three penalty points and a £60 fine, but police say some motorists have not been deterred.

Cow illustrated the devastating consequences of texting while driving for a fictional 17-year-old

Mr Arundale said that using a mobile phone while driving makes the user four times more likely to have an accident and the campaign would see a "zero tolerance" approach among officers.

"When you're using a handheld device at the wheel you're distracted and your reactions will be affected.

"It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration before you could become the cause of a serious collision or be involved in a fatal road traffic collision.

"We want the use of a mobile phone at the wheel to be seen as just as reckless and socially unacceptable as drink-driving and anyone caught using their mobile phone while driving will be prosecuted."

So far in 2011, Dyfed-Powys Police have issued 1,352 endorsable tickets to drivers for misusing mobile phones, while in 2010 they issued 2,122.

At Thursday's launch at the Merlin Theatre in Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, 100 students will hear from road safety professionals, Pembrokeshire council and police officers about the dangers of using hand-held phones while driving.

Start Quote

We want the use of a mobile phone at the wheel to be seen as just as reckless and socially unacceptable as drink-driving and anyone caught using their mobile phone while driving will be prosecuted”

End Quote Ian Arundale Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable

They will also see a clip from Cow and a new short film produced by a youth group in Milford Haven.

Demonstrating dangers

Sue Storch, chair of the Road Safety Wales partnership of local authorities, said the earlier film had become a useful tool in educating young people about the dangers of texting and phoning while at the wheel.

She said: "As part of the police school liaison core programme four short clips from the Cow video are shown to young people in Key Stage 4 of the education process to demonstrate the dangers and impact of distractions when driving.

"Utilising this informative and effective video enables road safety professionals and school liaison officers to encourage young adults to explore and understand the consequences of such actions."

Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins-Hughes produced Cow for Gwent Police as an educational tool for young motorists.

Unexpected impact

Profits generated by the film have been used to commission crime prevention films and award bursaries to young filmmakers via the Gwent Independent Film Trust (Gift).

Chris Morris, professor of documentary films at University of Wales, Newport, said: "Absolutely nobody thought Cow was going to have the impact it did.

"The students were crucial to the making of it, because we only had a small budget but the internet made a huge difference.

"Within a few weeks it had more than 6m hits and we've since been contacted by firms in Australia, Canada and Africa asking for copies to use in businesses where employees drive the public or goods.

"It strikes a chord with everybody, no matter how old you are."

We asked if you had experienced a motorist using a hand-held mobile while driving.

Its about time this was taken seriously. I've lost count of the number of motorists I've come across, texting or having a conversation whilst attempting to drive. I've also lost count of the number of drivers I've had words with when they're happily chatting or texting whilst at the traffic lights.

Ed, Cardiff

I see at least 10 drivers using their mobiles every day. A lot of these are so called 'professional drivers' in delivery vans, but include every single type of driver from young men to women with young children in the car. I'd also estimate that about 40% of the people I see using a phone while driving are texting. I have in the past pointed out to them that the shouldn't do it, but they don't care. We need unmarked patrols to clamp down on these, with no big announcements.

Phil, Swansea

As somebody recently hit by another driver not paying full attention to the road it pains me even more when I see people on their phones whilst driving. Thankfully, there was only damage to our car, but with a heavily pregnant wife and 2 year old in the vehicle, it could have been a lot worse. The arrogance demonstrated by some drivers needs to be addressed. The video posted in the news article is a very dramatic, yet realistic portrayal of the dangers; I commend the efforts of the production team.

Dominic, Tongwynlais,

I have previously worked for the Fire Service in South Wales. I find it a huge issue that people drive and use their phones, I believe that there should be a device installed into cars, that will disable them from starting if someone has a mobile phone that is switched on in them. The vast number of incidents that I have a attended due to people not paying attention is massive, I'm extremely surprised that they have managed to walk away, it is vitally important that people remain diligent and pay attention when on the roads and not use their mobile phones until they have stopped in a safe location and switched the car off.

delger84, Cardiff,

If texting is as bad as drink driving, and drink driving will get you a 12 month ban or more then go figure. The law needs to be changed to reflect this. I too see to many drivers using their phones while driving. Most of these people think it doesnt apply to them as they are the best drivers in the world and are in control, so as good as these shock videos are this will not work. Change the law!

Martin, Llantrisant,

Every week I cycle locally and in the border counties; I see numerous drivers using mobile phones both locally and on the main roads; but I see more private car drivers in the quiet country lanes and lorry drivers on the approach roads to factories. It's a problem to cover all these places.

Geoffrey Gartrell, Llangollen

I drive daily in connection with my work, and find it very distressing to see the amount of drivers using mobile phones whilst driving. This covers all age groups, and all types of vehicles, from small cars through to HGV's. The dangers are horrendous, but the existing penalties are far too lenient. If the law was changed to a first offence having a MINIMUM fine of £500 and 6 points, increasing to £2,000 and a 12 month driving ban then this would send a far clearer message of the serious nature of the offence

David Owens, Clwyd

It is impossible to make any one car journey of a reasonable duration, particularly in an urban area, without seeing mobile phone use in a moving vehicle. This includes not just cars but vans and even heavy lorries. The current deterrent is obviously not effective and needs to be increased and more importantly, better enforced. Motorists who commit this offence are simply oblivious to, or unconcerned at, the idea of putting other peoples lives in danger.

Adrian Hawes, Swansea

This is very simple to fix, £2000 fine and automatic 28 days ban every time that you are caught. points are not a deterrent until you get to 9, but losing the car for a month would do it far more effectively.

Ade, Welshpool, Powys,

I was recently proceeding north up the M6 on the top deck of a coach with blacked out windows, I could see clearly into the cabs of large HGVs although the drivers could not see me. Most of them were texting as they drove.

Chris Gould, Prestatyn, Denbighshire,

Several of my motorcycling friends have been involved in accidents because car drivers used the phone. I have been lucky so far to avoid such accidents. Riding a white bike and wearing a yellow jacket gives me an advantage. The fools know they are doing wrong, because as soon as they spot me looking at them, they quickly try to hide their phone. I always write down their registration, time of day, location and short description of driver and report them to the police. Apparently, the police do act upon such info.

Timm Frenzel, Risca,

Everytime I see a driver on their phone, I try to memorise the numberplate, get a description of the driver and note the time and place. Then when it is safe for me to do so I call the Police non emergency number and report it (101) I always get an incident number which means the police have to follow it up. They always do with a visit to the persons home and they then phone me to tell me what they have done. They must hate the sound of my voice but its something I feel very strongly about. People should get a £2000 fine and an automatic one month ban.

Andrea, Cardiff,

What baffles me is the fact that a person will happily spend thousands of pounds on a car,but will not put a cheap hands free system in the car costing just a few pounds!

Eric, Woodford Green, Essex,

Lots of people have suggested high penalties; however, in my opinion what we really need is a high-profile advertising campaign: something like the above film, redacted down to twenty seconds and shown on TV every day for a protracted period. That's what made drink-driving socially unacceptable, and that's what can make using a handheld socially unacceptable too.

Michael Grant, London,

What happens after the 2 weeks? Guess the police will go back to not procecuting the drivers so there is little point in reporting it. Drivers will always use their phones and a fortnight crackdown will do nothing.

Steve, Hertfordshire,

Only the other day a driver on his mobile phone cut in front of me causing me to brake suddenly. There is not one day goes by without me seeing people talking or texting whilst driving. Something needs to be done.

Byron Adlam, Swansea,

I commute by motorbike along the M25/M3/M4 from Tonbridge to Reading most days. On any such journey I lose count of the number of drivers using their mobile phones for texting while their cars swerve from one side of the lane to the other. Such people should have their licences shredded - they'll be the first to bleat "Sorry, I didn't see you" when they've nearly killed you. Clearly sending a text message is far more important to someone like that than a stranger's life. Oh, and a message to "Mr iPad" who drives his BMW 5-series erratically along the M25 to J7 some mornings while resting his iPad (I kid you not) on the steering wheel. Message reads: "DON'T!"

Keith, Tonbridge,

Using a device is a distraction! but so is having people in the car, esp. young children. The amount of drivers that I see paying more attention to the person/child than the road is astonishing. When will this be brought up as an issue! Never as this is exceptable by our backward laws.

Robert Parsons, Blackwood,

It's worse in the US. We have the laws but not the enforcement. The standard of driving in the US is bad enough even without talking and texting. I experience near misses every day when people talking on their phones drive on the wrong side of the road. Last year a teenager rolled her BMW over several times outside my house, she crawled out of the back window with her phone in-hand and collapsed in shock. We called an ambulance, she continued to use her phone to let everyone know how stupid she was.

Neil Hastings, US,

Spain - seen even holding a mobile phone = 600 euros on the spot fine, your car towed away if you cant pay. Guess what, people dont do it. The chances of our MPs actioning something like that in the UK - sadly zero!

Mike Kitson, Leeds,

I'm amazed at how many drivers I see leaving car parks while holding a mobile phone to their ear. Couldn't they remain parked for a few minutes longer, to finish their call, before pulling off?

Clive Jones, Llanelli,

I've been cut up on roundabouts numerous times, nearly run over on a zebra crossing & narrowly avoided being hit side on at traffic lights all because some selfish ignoramous had a mobile phone clamped to his ear whilst "driving". Unfortunately, it appears to be an acceptable hazzard nowadays & until these offenders are punished with sizeable fines & bans then it will continue to be the norm.

Kevin Lee, Rugby, Warks,

I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic travelling back and forth to work from home and every day it still amazes me how many people still drive and use their phone. I have seen teenagers, business men, taxi drivers and even delivery drivers, whose job is driving and would seriously jeopardise their livelihood if they were to get caught. Im also amazed at what other things drivers get up to, my favourite is a woman eating a bowl of cereal at the wheel. Let's have a permanent crackdown on mobile-phone using drivers not just two weeks.

Jonathan Roberts, Swansea,

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