A new campaign clamping down on drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel has been launched in Sussex.
It Can Wait is aiming to remind drivers that nothing is more important than focusing on driving – and driving alone.
The campaign by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP) is urging drivers to either place their phone out of reach, or set them to silent before setting off on a journey to ensure they are not distracted or tempted to pick them up while driving.
Sussex Police will be running a fortnight of enforcement action starting today (Monday January 23) and another week in early March.
Although this will be business as usual, the force is taking the opportunity to conduct visible patrols.
Sergeant Phil Badman, from Sussex Police’s Roads Policing Unit (RPU), said: “The law states that you can only use a hand-held mobile phone when you are the driver if you need to call 999 or 112.
“Other than that, you can only use a hand-held device if you are safely parked.
“You cannot use it when you are stopped at traffic lights or queueing in traffic. These laws are set to keep people safe and alive on the roads.
“Working in RPU, I have seen far too many incidents where drivers were distracted by their phones – and it’s not worth it. Checking a text seems so insignificant – both at the time, but also once you’ve crashed, and lives have been changed.”
Driving while distracted is an increasing problem in Sussex with mobile phones now used to make calls, send messages, play music, or check road conditions on the internet.
Firefighters in both East and West Sussex will be supporting It Can Wait by focusing on prevention, with teams out in the community raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
The campaign is running in anticipation of expected changes in legislation around mobile phone use while driving.
Currently the penalty is a £100 fine and three points on your driving licence.
Last year the Government held a consultation on proposed changes and the penalties are expected to double to £200 and six points from March 2017, although this has not been officially confirmed.
Newly qualified drivers lose their licence if they acquire six points within two years of passing their test.
Members of the public are urged to back the campaign by encouraging friends and family to put their phones down or to turn their mobiles off or on to silent when driving.
Residents can also report drivers using their mobiles to Operation Crackdown at www.operationcrackdown.org
SSRP is a partnership led by Sussex Police, and includes East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, Brighton & Hove City Council and Highways England.
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