Police in Suffolk will be targeting drivers using their mobile phones behind the wheel as part of a week-long campaign next week.
Operation Ringtone will run between Monday and Sunday, January 22 to 28, and coincides with a nationwide campaign led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
It will see officers patrolling the roads with marked and unmarked cars and motorcycles, all fitted with cameras to obtain evidence to help secure successful prosecutions.
Police are also continuing to encourage members of the public to use the reporting form on the police website, which allows members of the public to submit dash cam footage to support the fight against those breaking the law.
Between January and December last year 1,179 penalty notices were issued for the offence of driving whilst using a mobile phone in Suffolk. This includes 62 people caught during the last week of action which took place between July 10 and 16.
Chief Inspector Kris Barnard, Head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Roads Policing and Firearms Operations Unit, said: “We believe driving whilst using a mobile phone is just as dangerous as drink or drug-driving and are determined to make it as socially unacceptable as those offences. Mobile phones in vehicles are a distraction and can cause serious or even fatal collisions. A momentary glance down at your phone means you are not paying full attention to the road and are not in proper control of your vehicle.
“My appeal to motorists is to put their phones out of reach when you are driving and either leave it in your bag or put in in the glovebox, so you are not tempted to look at a message or answer a call. The penalties for driving whilst using a mobile phone were increased last year and anyone caught committing the offence will receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine, which I hope acts as an extra deterrent and will make people think twice before picking up their phone.
“Members of the public can continue to assist us by submitting footage and supporting our investigations, allowing us to hold more lawbreakers to account.”
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. I hope the increased penalties will be the catalyst for change.
“I wholeheartedly support this Operation Ringtone campaign which will see increased enforcement across the county.”
Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, and Chair of the Suffolk Roadsafe Board, said: ” Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen.
“We know we can’t change the attitudes and actions of all drivers overnight. We now have stricter penalties, so we need to continue with education campaigns and more police enforcement to stop people using their mobile phones while driving.”