Nearly 1,000 people were caught using a mobile phone while driving in Cambridgeshire in the first 11 months of 2016.
The new statistics have been revealed by the constabulary as a new campaign is launched to highlight the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving and raise awareness of a change in the law.
From Wednesday, March 1, the penalty for driving whilst using a mobile phone will double to six points and a £200 fine. For drivers with less than two years’ experience that could mean a ban for one offence.
Highways England have provided the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit with a HGV cab as an additional tool to assist with enforcement. The HGV cab has room for two officers and provides a better vantage point to help catch offenders who may be driving larger vehicles. They have also provided funding to train extra police officers to enable them to get a HGV licence.
Sergeant Ian Manley, of the Road Policing Unit, said: “Having the HGV cab provides us with extra enforcement opportunities which we wouldn’t have in standard police vehicles. It’s great to have the support of Highways England in enforcing this change in the legislation.
“If you use a mobile phone whilst driving you significantly increase your chances of being involved in a serious, even fatal collision. We need to educate the public that this behaviour is completely unacceptable. Using a phone behind the wheel not only puts your life at risk, but that of other innocent road users.”
Jason Ablewhite, Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Too many lives have already been devastated by the horrific consequences of people using mobile phones behind the wheel. I would rather people lost their licences than innocent people their lives. Together we must do everything we can to make using mobile phones whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink or drug driving.”
Anthony Thorpe, Highways England assistant project manager, said: “Safety is our top priority, and I am pleased that our HGV cab will now be helping police in the East of England to identify unsafe behaviour on the motorways and major A roads after having already proved successful in other parts of the country.
“It provides an ideal viewing platform for police officers to identify dangerous behaviour that can be difficult to spot from standard police patrol vehicles – for example texting while driving. Highways England is committed to working collaboratively with our partners in the police to improve road safety by influencing driver behaviour by this and other initiatives.”
In addition to enforcement work, content will be published on the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Road Safety Partnership’s social media channels to help raise awareness.
In the first 11 months of last year 960 people were caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel in Cambridgeshire. The combined total for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire was 2,796.