Deep concern as ‘staggering’ 122 drivers play with lives by using phones during Operation Ringtone

Police carrying out checks during Operation Ringtone.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Police carrying out checks during Operation Ringtone. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Police are staggered by the number of drivers caught using mobile phones behind the wheel during a week-long crackdown.

Suffolk County Council's Jane Storey and Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore with the Road Ca

Suffolk County Council's Jane Storey and Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore with the Road Casualty Reduction Team at the launch of Operation Ringtone. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Officers caught 122 people during last week’s Operation Ringtone – twice the amount caught during a seven-day enforcement campaign last summer.

With an average 17 motorists issued traffic offence reports (TORs) on each day of the purge, roads policing chiefs have raised deep concerns that so many people are continuing to risk lives.

Equally frustrating for police was the number of law-breaking drivers who claimed to be ignorant of the harsher punishments brought in last year.

Chief Inspector Kris Barnard said: “This is a staggering number of people caught breaking the law – an average of 17 a day – and I am deeply concerned that such a high number of people are willing to risk other people’s lives by using their phone while driving.

Suffolk County Council's Jane Storey and Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore with the Road Ca

Suffolk County Council's Jane Storey and Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore with the Road Casualty Reduction Team at the launch of Operation Ringtone. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“However, I think the fact almost twice as many people were caught during this week of action, compared with the last one in July 2017, is as a result of an intelligence-led concerted effort of officers across the county.”

Operation Ringtone ran between January 22 and 28, coinciding with a nationwide campaign led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

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Last year, when penalties were increased to six points and a £200 fine, 1,179 notices were issued in Suffolk for driving while using a phone – with 62 people caught during a week of action in July.

Licences will be cancelled if drivers incur six or more points within two years of passing their driving test. It is also an offence to use a phone while a vehicle is stationary with the engine running.

Ch Insp Barnard said: “Many of the drivers stated they were not aware the penalties for the offence increased last year.

“Far too many people are oblivious to just how dangerous using your phone while driving is, and the devastating consequences it can have if it causes you to be involved in a serious or fatal collision.

“Our message is simple – don’t put lives in danger, and leave your phone alone while behind the wheel.”

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said: “Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives.

“It absolutely horrifies me when I see drivers on their phones and sadly we see it all too often.”