Driving instructor among 13 motorists caught using their phones behind the wheel in Norwich, just hours after tougher penalties are introduced

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Police have caught 11 motorists using their mobile phones behind the wheel in less than 90 minutes as part of a rush-hour crackdown in Norwich.

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Officers from Norfolk's roads policing unit were out on Newmarket Road today as new, tougher penalties came into force for drivers using phones at the wheel.

The law changed overnight meaning that from yesterday motorists caught using phones face six penalty points and a £200 fine.

In less than an hour and a half police caught 11 motorists using their phones and one for not wearing a seatbelt.

At least two of those caught using their phones at the wheel were using them to change music with one having heard about the new law on the radio just before he was stopped.

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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One woman who was texting at the wheel told officers she had lost her dog and was replying to a text to say it had been found.

Elsewhere, police also carried out a purge on Boundary Road where two people were stopped.

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One was a driving instructor stopped for using her phone, while teaching a learner driver. Instructors are deemed to be in charge of the vehicle, even when leaners are behind the wheel, therefore the same rules apply when they are passengers.

When stopped the woman was texting with her phone in one hand while holding a coffee in the other.

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

In total, 13 people were given tickets for using a mobile phone.

In addition, two tickets were issued for seatbelt offences, one for no MoT and three for driving without a licence.

A new driver, who had only passed his test in June, faces losing his licence after being caught at Newmarket Road today.

Those motorists who have passed within the past two years can only get six points before their licence is revoked back to provisional status, meaning they will have to retake their test.

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. PC Martin Goulder. Picture:

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. PC Martin Goulder. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Sgt Peter Howlett, from Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Unit said he was not surprised by the numbers caught this morning, but hoped the new legislation would have an impact in time.

He said: 'Unfortunately I'm not surprised.

'I think it's going to this change in legislation for people to stop using their phones.

'If you get caught twice that's it.'

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police stopping drivers using mobile phones along Unthank Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Sgt Howlett said the new law affected two groups of drivers in particular.

He said: 'Firstly it affects those drivers who already have penalty points on their licence.

'If a driver has six or more points on their licence at the moment and then picks up another six points from a mobile phone offence they could be disqualified from driving and if you need your car for a living or to get to work that has big implications.

'The other group of drivers it affects are those new drivers, people who have passed their test within the last two years. They can only attract six penalty points on their licence in those first two years of driving and if they attract those six they lose their driving licence and revert back to a provisional licence holder.'

He added: 'The thing is the public don't make it difficult for us.

'We come out here and do these operations and people still do it.'

The operation, which involved plain clothes police spotters alerting officers to motorists who were using their phones behind the wheel, started just after 8am.

Within just a few minutes the first driver, a woman who had been using her phone to change music in the car, had been caught and pulled over to be told that she faced a £200 fine and six points on her licence.

Over the next hour and a half 10 more motorists were pulled over by police after being seen using their phones behind the wheel, including lorry driver Derek Crossland.

The 62-year-old from Sheffield, who was stopped after he was seen 'interacting' with his phone at the wheel said he had not realised he was committing an offence.

He said: 'The phone was on the dashboard on speaker phone and I thought that was okay, but obviously its not.'

Despite having been caught Mr Crossland, who admitted that while in his cab he could see motorists on their phones all the time, said he agreed with the new law which he was aware of and had even been warned about before he started work.

He said: 'I saw something on Facebook and when I started at 6am saw it on the news and to top it all my wife said don't forget that law comes in.

'I agree with the change in law. It's just I wasn't up with the guidelines. I will just use my phone when I pull up.'

Another motorist who was stopped as part of the crackdown in Norwich today said she had lost her dog and had been replying to a text to say it had been found at the time she was stopped.

Sgt Howlett said: 'I'm sure the loss of her puppy is really important to her but it's not that important that you need to start putting your life or at risk or other people's lives at risk to respond to a text.'

Officers will be carrying out extra patrols this week as part of a national campaign, named locally as Operation Ringtone, targeting motorists who use their phones behind the wheel.

During the most recent campaign, held in January (23-29), 102 tickets were issued in Norfolk, while 149 were issued in Suffolk.

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