30 November 2012, 16:00
A police campaign backed by Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, aims to end the dangerous habit of many motorists of using their mobile phones while driving.
In support of the Commissioner’s strategic aim to reduce dangerous driver behaviour on Hertfordshire’s roads, the Chief Constable, Andy Bliss, has ordered a month-long focussed operation throughout December which will see officers across the county targeting people misusing mobile phones while driving. He has appointed Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford as overall commander of the operation.
Operation Callback runs alongside the nationwide annual Christmas drink drive campaign and will also clampdown on other aspects of dangerous driving including speeding and not wearing seatbelts.
Commissioner David Lloyd said: “Anti-social and dangerous driving is a key concern for me – it’s one of the most talked-about safety issues across the county and one that affects so many people. Quite rightly they worry how safe are the roads for them and their families.
“Everyone has the right to use public roads without fear for their safety and confident that the Constabulary is enforcing the law and keeping the highways safe. That’s why you will be hearing more from me on this issue, including how you can have a direct say in tackling unsafe driving on roads where you live.”
Assistant Chief Constable, Alison Roome-Gifford, said: “Our message is very clear, if you use a mobile phone while you are driving in Hertfordshire there is a very strong chance that you will be caught by one of Hertfordshire officers. Our roads policing team will be involved but so too will local neighbourhood officers across the county.
“We will be running a series of high profile operations over the Christmas period to tackle this issue and of course we’ll also be looking out for drink drivers and other criminals on the road as well.
“We have dealt with too many avoidable crashes where an officer has had to break the worst possible news possible to a loved-one. I’d much rather officers were stopping and dealing with motorists for dangerous driving behaviour than picking up the pieces after a serious road traffic collision.
“Our message to drivers is: if that call is so important to you, pull over and park in a safe place to take or make it. Or, simply call them back when you finish your journey. There is absolutely no excuse to misuse a mobile phone while you are driving.”
The campaign has been backed by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and the road safety charity Brake.
Cllr Stuart Pile, HCC’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We are fully in support of this campaign. Our highways teams and the Fire & Rescue Service are called all too frequently to collisions that could have been easily avoided if drivers hadn't been distracted by a mobile phone. Is making a phone call or texting really so important that you're willing to risk your or another person's life?”
Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer for Brake, added: “Brake is fully in support of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Callback. As a charity that supports people who have been bereaved or injured in road crashes, Brake has seen the carnage caused by drivers using their phones at the wheel. If you use a phone to call or text at the wheel you are taking a horrendous risk with your life and the lives of others. We're urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important.”
If you’ve never been stopped before for the offence of using a mobile phone while driving, you may be eligible for the ‘What’s Driving Us?’ diversion course and a payment of £80*. If you refuse or you have been dealt with by police previously, you face prosecution, three penalty points on your driving licence and a fine that can be up to £2,500 for lorries and vehicles that can carry more than eight passengers and up to £1,000 for car drivers.
In one year (June 2011 to June 2012) 34 collisions in Hertfordshire, that resulted in a serious injury or death, recorded ‘using a mobile phone’ as a contributory factor but analysts say that the true figure may be far higher as drivers tend not to admit to using their mobile while driving, unless witnessed doing so.
Research has also proven that using a mobile phone massively reduces driving ability. A recent study published by Which? magazine (October 2012) showed a 79 per cent reduction in attention resulted from drivers texting while driving. They also drove much closer to the vehicle in front, reaction times were markedly slower and a tendency to drift between lanes increased.
During the campaign, a driving simulator will tour the county’s towns to give people an opportunity to try out, and see the consequences for themselves, of using a mobile phone while driving.
Don’t destroy a family this Christmas, don’t use a mobile phone while driving.