10 January 2013, 11:38 | Updated: 10 January 2013, 11:50
More than 570 drivers have been caught during a month-long operation targeting drivers in Hertfordshire using mobiles at the wheel.
Operation Callback was launched in December 2012 by Hertfordshire's new Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd, as part of a strategy to tackle dangerous driving in Hertfordshire.
More than 2,400 drivers were pulled over during the campaign.
Those found breaking the law have been offered the chance to go on a course to show them why using a mobile while driving is so dangerous.
David Lloyd said: “Dangerous and inconsiderate motoring is a concern to us all. Driving responsibly is a duty for us all.
“Hertfordshire Constabulary will continue to ensure that those drivers that do not give their driving their full attention will be picked up. This will help keep the rest of us safe.”
The operation drove home the message that using a mobile phone while on the road means you are at significant risk of causing an accident and that motorists that do call or text while driving in Hertfordshire have a good chance of getting caught by police.
Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford, who was Operation Commander for the campaign, said: “The results of Operation Callback have sadly shown that there are many drivers on the road in Hertfordshire who believe it is acceptable to use a mobile phone behind the wheel, despite the dangers.
“It is important that motorists understand that using your mobile phone while driving will increase your chances of being involved in a collision and even being responsible for someone’s death.
“There are no excuses for doing it. The vast majority of calls are not emergencies and can be left to go to voicemail. If it is an emergency, then pull over to a safe and legal place to stop and call back. Don’t take the call on the road and risk being responsible for an accident.”
Throughout the month, the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit supported a number of Operation Callback events occurred across the county.
Day-long operations were held where road policing officers, Safer Neighbourhood Teams and other officers joined forces to target drivers in individual districts and boroughs.
A crash simulator car was also taken to various town centres which ran a simulation highlighting the possible tragic consequences of being distracted by a mobile phone while driving.
Chief Inspector Richard Hann, of the Road Policing Unit, said: “Hopefully with this campaign drivers will have started to get the message that using a mobile phone while driving will not be tolerated by police in Hertfordshire.
“We have caught a large number of people using their mobile phones while driving throughout December but if you regularly do this and haven’t been caught yet, don’t think you got away with it. My officers will continue throughout 2013 and beyond to stop motorists who put their own and other people’s lives at risk by taking calls on the road.”
If you are caught by a police officer using a mobile phone or another offence, you will be issued with a TOR, telling you that the offence will be investigated and a suitable disposal is determined.
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 £85. 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 resulting 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.
Here is a breakdown of some of the numbers involved in Operation Callback in Hertfordshire between 1 and 31 December 2012:
· 2,487 vehicles were stopped as part of Operation Callback
· 577 drivers were given Traffic Offence Reports (TORs) for using a mobile phone while driving
· 698 drivers were issued with TORs for other offences
· 53 vehicles were seized on suspicion of having no insurance
· 43 people were arrested on suspicion of a range of crimes including drink driving, theft and immigration offences.