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OUT IN THE FIELD: Drivers using phones - hang ’em high
With the crackdown on people using mobile phones at the wheel, an interesting story reached me this week regarding something of a chink in the armour of Sussex Police when it comes to dealing with offenders. I should point out right now that I don’t use a mobile phone at the wheel EVER after quite rightly being unceremoniously shouted at by an off-duty police officer and coastguard two years ago while chatting away as I turned a corner in my charabanc. It frightened me, made me think about the inquests I’ve covered where people have died in road accidents as a result of somebody using a mobile phone so my phone stays safely in my bag these days. It drives me mad when I see drivers on their phones and frequently roar at them now myself. Anyway, I digress. Earlier in the summer, on spotting some wombat using his phone at the wheel, two former police friends of mine motioned for the driver to get off his device. Their request was met by various forms of gesticulating and the driver shrugged and sped off. They duly took his number plate – as that is what Operation Crackdown, aimed at anti-social driving, is all about – reported it and offered to attend court if need be with a third independent witness. But they then received a letter to say it wouldn’t be “in the public interest” to pursue the driver and bring him to court and in addition, the incident hadn’t been “witnessed by a police officer”. Sussex Police is instead sending letters to motorists warning them about their anti-social driving behaviour. What a load of poppycock. Exactly how many crimes are witnessed by a police officer I wonder? And what good is a letter going to do? I would imagine most people would just tear it up and throw it in the bin. Penalties are being doubled when motorists caught using a handheld mobile phone when driving will face six penalty points and a £200 fine from 2017. Texting, making phone calls without a hands free kit or checking social media accounts will incur the penalties and there is also set to be a six-month driving ban for drivers who are caught twice for the offence. The new penalties come in next year and the sooner the better.
 

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