Police watching from double-decker buses could catch you using your mobile phone while driving
DRIVERS using their mobile phones while behind the wheel could be caught out by police watching from above.
New surveillance operations are being put in place to clamp down on the number of distracted drivers, following a decline in prosecution rates for mobile phone use.
West Yorkshire Police is putting officers on double-decker buses to look down at road users and catch those on their phones.
Its officers then pass on driver details to traffic officers in patrol vehicles, who pull over offenders and issue a fine.
But there are sometimes so many motorists seen offending at the same time cops are unable to catch them all.
Russell Miller, a PCSO with West Yorkshire Police, said: “There was a point when we spotted one (offender) and started to pass on those details.
When is it legal to use a mobile phone in the car?
Since new laws came into force in 2017, mobile phone convictions for drivers carry a £200 fine and six penalty points.
Rob Gwynne-Thomas of the South Wales Police Road Policing Unit explains when you can and can’t use a phone in the car:
- Skipping music, declining a call or unlocking your phone: Illegal. Any physical interaction with your phone will be classified as “using it”.
- Programming your phone as a sat nav: Illegal. You must set the route before you turn on your car and set off on your journey.
- Using hands-free/Bluetooth kits: Legal. As long as you aren’t distracted from focusing on the road.
- Using your phone when the car is stationary. e.g. in traffic or at a red light: Illegal. While the engine is on and you are in control of the car, it is illegal to touch your phone.
- Sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine switched off: Legal. As long as you are pulled over to the side of the road in a safe location.
- Using voice commands. e.g. Siri: Legal. But only if you don’t need to touch your phone at all to do so, and aren’t distracted from driving. If you have to pick up your phone to enable voice commands, it is illegal.
“Then literally out of the next 10 or 12 vehicles, about 70 per cent were using their mobile phone and we can’t pass those details on and record them quick enough.”
A cut in the number of traffic police officers has led to a significant drop in people being prosecuted for driving while using a mobile phone, the RAC told the BBC.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed the number of drivers convicted of the offence almost halved to just under 12,000 between 2012 and 2016.
According to the BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire current affairs programme, officers put on double-deckers to catch drivers using their phone at the wheel have sometimes seen so many offenders they cannot record their details quickly enough.
A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association in 2017 found that in the 10 years from 2007, the number of traffic officers in England and Wales fell by almost a third from 3,766 to 2,643.
GOOD CALL Is driving using your mobile phone illegal, how much is the fine and do you get points on your licence?
The West Yorkshire Police operation is not the first time cops have taken to public transport to catch illegal behaviours on the road.
Police in Devon caught more than 130 drivers on their phone in the first two days of their operation in 2017.
And in September last year, West Midlands police launched Operation Top Deck, with plain-clothes officers placed on double-deckers to observe drivers.
Worrying figures from the RAC show a quarter of drivers admit to talking on a handheld phone while driving, and some 40 per cent admit to texting.
They also reveal nearly 2,300 crashes were caused by drivers using a mobile phone between 2013 and 2017 – with 33 of the collisions in 2017 resulting in a fatality.
the road laws you need to know
Nick Lyes, from the RAC, said: “If there’s less police officers on the road enforcing the law, that means there’s probably less prosecutions taking place as well.
“We’re concerned that our most recent data shows that bad habits are creeping up again.
“What we’ve got to do in this country is to make the use of a handheld mobile phone whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”
Source: The Sun Motors – Police watching from double-decker buses could catch you using your mobile phone while driving