Fewer drivers on mobile phones ‘caught by police’

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The number of drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel has almost halved in four years, the BBC can reveal.

In 2011-12, 178,000 people were stopped by police in the UK, compared to under 95,000 in 2015-16.

Of the 43 police forces in the UK asked by the BBC, 37 gave figures for how many drivers had been caught using their phones while driving.

The National Police Federation said the drop was due to fewer traffic officers.

Police chiefs say officers can take different courses of action against offenders, including sending them on courses about the consequences of being distracted at the wheel, as well as prosecuting them.

Kent Police had the biggest drop in the number of drivers stopped for using a phone at the wheel, from 4,496 in 2011-12 to 723 in 2015-16 – a reduction of 84 percent.

Five-year-high

Wiltshire Police also saw a decrease in numbers from 2008 to 412 in the same period – a drop of almost 80 percent.

Overall, the number of people stopped by police forces who responded to the BBC in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fell by 47 percent in the last four years, the BBC found.

Ten police forces reported a rise in the number of drivers caught using their mobiles at the wheel between 2014-15 and 2015-16: City of London, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Warwickshire, West Mercia, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Dyred-Powys.

Meanwhile, Norfolk Constabulary’s figures are at a five-year high, having stopped 2,287 drivers in 2015-16 compared to 836 the previous year.

‘Changing attitudes’

A spokesman for the National Police Chief’s Council said: “Budget cuts have impacted on the number of traffic officers, yet road policing enforcement is also a core duty of all police officers, as well as the specialist teams.”

Ch Con Suzette Davenport, the from council, said: “Police have adapted to significant increases in motorists’ use of mobile phones at the wheel, as well as phones themselves becoming much smarter.

“Like drink driving, we have to work towards changing people’s attitudes.

“This problem cannot be solved by enforcement alone – we need to build awareness and make it socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone while driving.”

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