23 January 2017, 05:48
Surrey Police is supporting a national campaign to highlight tougher penalties due to become law and crackdown on those motorists using handheld mobile phones when driving.
The Force is reminding motorists that nothing is more important than focussing on driving. The “It Can Wait” campaign is urging drivers to place their phone out of reach or set it to silent before setting off on a journey in a bid to take away any temptation to use it when behind the wheel.
Officers from the Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit (RPU) will be targeting irresponsible and dangerous drivers who are spotted making calls, texting and recording videos or surfing the web. They will be taking action against those illegally using a mobile phone at the wheel and will be informing motorists of the new law which will see the Fixed Penalty fine double from £100 to £200 and the penalty points for the offence increase from three points to six points. The legislative changes come into effect from 1 March 2017 and mean a new driver could lose their licence if they are caught just once while using their phone.
Superintendent Chris Moon, Head of Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit said:
“The message not to use a hand held mobile is still not getting through despite it being 14 years since it was made illegal. There’s been an alarming rise in the number of people using mobiles when they shouldn’t - the national campaign in May 2016 recorded the highest percentage rate of drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving compared to any other previous campaigns.
“This addiction to using a hand held mobile phone needs to be broken and putting the phone on silent or out of reach when driving can put a stop to the habit. Motorists are putting themselves and those around them at huge risk – using a mobile while driving can cause death or serious injury.”
A father-of-two, 48-year-old, Lee Martin from Basingstoke, was killed when he was hit by a Ford Transit van as he cycled along the A31 near Farnham in August 2015. The driver of the van was sending and reading text messages when the collision happened. 30-year-old Christopher Gard from Alton was sentenced to nine years for causing death by dangerous driving. Last week he lost an appeal to cut the length of his sentence. Gard had seven previous convictions for using a phone at the wheel and his appeal was dismissed by a judge who said “most rational people would have modified their behaviour for their own sake or for their potential victims”.
Supt Moon said: “This tragic incident could have been averted if the driver had carried out what he had promised to do when he was in court just weeks before the accident. Gard had told the court he would lock his phone in the boot of his van when driving – he managed to persuade magistrates he could curb his behaviour.
“I want motorists to think about this shocking and avoidable fatal accident when they reach to use their mobile. Is any call, text or picture worth someone’s life? Help yourself to avoid any temptation, turn the sound off and place your phone safely out of arm’s reach. Remember #It Can Wait.
“There needs to be a sea change in how the driving community currently views and accepts the illegal use of mobile phones. The behaviour needs to be seen as socially unacceptable in the same way in which drink or drug driving and the non-wearing of seat belts is viewed by the majority of the population.”
The campaign runs from Monday, 23 January at 6am until Sunday, 29 January at 11.59pm.