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28 September 2016, 10:32
The number of drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel in Kent has fallen dramatically, according to latest figures.
Statistics obtained from Kent police show it dropped more than 80% from 4496 in 2011 and 723 last year. It is the biggest reduction recorded by an police force in the country.
Nationally, the figures showed there were a total of 178,000 people stopped by police in the UK in 2011-12 for using their phones. This compared to fewer than 95,000 in 2015-16, a drop of just under 47%.
Police officer leaders have blamed the fall in those being caught on a reduction of traffic officers as a result of budget cuts, saying the two go "hand in hand''.
Ten police forces - City of London, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Warwickshire, West Mercia, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys - recorded a rise in cases between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Norfolk Constabulary's figures were the highest for five years, with officers stopping 2,287 drivers in 2015-16 compared to 836 in 2014-15.
Earlier this month the RAC said a recent survey of over 1,700 motorists showed almost one-third (31%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared to just 8% in 2014.
The proportion of drivers who confessed to sending a message or posting on social media rose from 7% to 19% over the same period.
Some 14% of motorists even owned up to taking photographs or videos with their phone while driving.
Motorists caught using a handheld phone are currently given three penalty points and a minimum fine of #100, but this is set to be increased to six points and #200 under the plans, with tougher penalties for new drivers and drivers of HGVs.