Drivers stung for using mobile phones

ROCKETING numbers of Suffolk drivers are being caught using mobile phones in a sustained purge by police, it emerged today.

ROCKETING numbers of Suffolk drivers are being caught using mobile phones in a sustained purge by police, it emerged today.

New year-on-year figures show the crackdown is paying dividends with almost 1,000 more motorists being caught using hand-held mobiles than in the year before.

A total of 2,696 drivers received £30 fixed penalties - amounting to £80,880 - between February last year and the end of January this year.

The statistics, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information request by The Evening Star, show a 52.4 per cent rise compared to the figures for the same period during the previous 12 months.

Then just 1,769 motorists were caught flouting the law on using hand-held mobiles while driving.

Chief Inspector Martin Barnes-Smith, head of Suffolk Constabulary's roads policing unit, put the 927 fixed penalty increase down to a get-tough approach, which has been spread throughout the force.

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Ch insp Barnes-Smith said: “I would say it is because our officers have become more active. The message that we continue to push out is that we need to back up our educational programme by enforcement.

“We have certainly, internally, shown the importance of our road safety message and because of that officers are now making the difference.”

He added the top priorities of road safety in Suffolk are to eliminate speeding, the use of hand-held mobiles while driving, drink or drug driving and seatbelt offences.

Police feel if they can concentrate on reducing these offences it will continue the downward trend of those killed or seriously injured on the road, which has decreased from 348 people in 2004, to 331 in 2005 and 313 in 2006.

Ch insp Barnes-Smith said: “They are the areas we have the biggest chance of making an impact on to reduce road casualties. While we are continuing to do it the figures of fatal or serious injury accidents are coming down. At the end of 2006 we had the lowest number of killed or serious injury accident figures of all time in Suffolk.”

At the beginning of this month new legislation came in to increase fines for using hand-held mobiles while driving to £60. Three points will also be added to the licences of motorists who continue to ignore the law, raising the spectre that the extra points could eventually lead them to get a driving ban through the totting up procedure.

What do you think about drivers who use hand-held mobiles? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail to