Police in Norfolk and Suffolk get tough in new crackdown on ‘extremely dangerous’ drivers who use mobile phones

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- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2006

Police in Norfolk and Suffolk have launched a new crackdown on people caught driving while using a mobile phone, following a dramatic rise in the crime.

With immediate effect, Norfolk and Suffolk police are no longer offering educational courses to first-time offenders.

The news is welcomed by the EDP, which launched its Hands Off campaign in September to discourage drivers from using mobile phones at the wheel.

It follows proposed changes to increase punishment for people caught illegally using their mobile phone while driving, which are to go before Parliament. These include increasing penalty points from three to six; increasing the penalty fine from £100 to £200 and advising the police to no longer offer the remedial course to first-time offenders.

This is still going through the statutory process; however, it is up to individual forces as to whether courses are offered and Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies have decided to withdraw this option with immediate effect.


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Offenders will now automatically be given a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points on their licence, until the increased punishments are approved.

Chief Inspector Kris Barnard, head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Operations Unit, said: 'Driving while using a mobile phone is extremely dangerous and the penalty for this offence will increase next year.

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'With the proposed changes in mind it makes sense to adopt this approach with immediate effect, supporting our aim of making this offence as socially unacceptable as drink-driving has become over the years.

'We are committed to improving road safety.

'Education clearly plays an important role and we will continue to work with our road safety partners to achieve this.'

The number of crashes caused by a driver using a mobile phone has almost doubled in the region in four years.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 81 crashes in the East of England were caused by a driver using a mobile phone – up from 46 in 2010.

The numbers from the Department for Transport show that drivers using mobile phones are behind a low number of crashes.

But they are one of the few causes of road accidents which are on the rise.

In Norfolk, 13 crashes were caused by a driver using a mobile phone in 2014, up from just seven in 2010. In Suffolk the numbers were up from two in 2010 to nine in 2014.

Separately, almost 60 crashes were caused in Norfolk in 2014 by a distraction in the vehicle.

Through our Hands Off campaign the EDP has pledged to name motorists who are taken to court in Norfolk and north Suffolk for using their phones

while driving, following the case of a lorry driver jailed for six years after a crash which killed a police officer.

How a text can end in tragedy

February 2013: David Wright, 74, was hit and killed while crossing a road in Lowestoft by a driver who had been texting before the crash.

April 2013: A driver crashed into the car of Dawn Bartlett, 61, killing her. He had been talking on his phone before the crash.

July 2014: Marina Usaceva, then of Padholme Road, Peterborough, was jailed for six years for crashing on the A47 between Thorney and Wisbech moments after texting and using two phones. The crash killed Sukhdeep Singh Johal, 27.

December 2014: Seth Dixon, seven, was killed outside his home near Wisbech by a driver talking on her phone.

June 2015: Army captain Alison Dray, from Kent, was jailed for nine months for hitting Watton man Ashley Taylor on the A1075 in her 4x4 in 2014. Mr Taylor, 32, died from his injuries. Dray had been using her phone before the crash.

September 2016: Lorry driver Danny Warby, of Runcton Holme,was jailed for six years for killing police officer Sharon Garrett. He had opened a text message moments before the crash in 2014.

Campaign has widespread support

The EDP launched its Hands Off campaign, which is urging drivers to stop using their mobile phones at the wheel, in September.

We have pledged to name motorists who are taken to court in Norfolk and north Suffolk for using their

phones while driving, following the case of a lorry driver jailed for six years after a crash which killed a police officer.

Our Hands Off Your Mobile campaign follows tragedies across the region caused by motorists using their

phones.

The latest figures from the Department for Transport show 53 crashes were caused in east England last year by drivers on their phones.

This includes eight in Norfolk, seven in Cambridgeshire and three in Suffolk.

The campaign has received widespread support from the public and is also backed by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Norfolk coroner Jacqueline Lake, Norfolk County Council leader Cliff Jordan, Norfolk police and crime commissioner Lorne Green and Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore.

What do you think? Have police in Norfolk and Suffolk done the right thing? Email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk or write to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, remembering to include your full name and address or leave your comments below.

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