Police in England and Wales are targeting people using their phones at the wheel in a week-long operation which started yesterday (Monday, January 22).
However, the road safety charity Brake says the problem can only be tackled through a “long-term police enforcement effort”.
Police will be using unmarked vans, high vantage points and helmet cams to catch offenders. The last operation in July 2017 saw over 8,000 drivers stopped and 2,595 offences detected.
Motorists caught using a phone behind the wheel can receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine. Early indications show that the new legislation is having an impact with around 11% fewer drivers stopped in the three months post-legislation than in the preceding three months, say the police.
In 2016, 32 people were killed in road traffic collisions where the driver of the vehicle was using their mobile phone, according to the Department for Transport.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: "Nearly a year on from legislation to toughen the sanctions for using a phone at the wheel, we are seeing some change in driver behaviour but there are still too many people underestimating the risk they take.
"If you glance at a phone for even 2.3 seconds while driving at 30mph you miss 100ft of road. That is the equivalent to the length of Boeing 737.
"Drivers, put safety first and keep your eyes on the road. If you do use your phone at the wheel, don't be surprised to be stopped by police and to receive a fine and points on your licence."
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for the road charity Brake told Fleet News that phone use behind the wheel is “an increasing menace on our roads, nearly halving driver reaction times and posing a serious threat to the lives of other road users”.
Brake is calling upon all drivers to put their phones away in the glovebox, out of reach.
Harris added: “Drivers should have the expectation that if they use a phone behind the wheel, they will be caught. However, this outcome can only be truly delivered through a more concerted and long-term police enforcement effort.
“Shockingly, research has shown that hands-free calls cause almost the same level of risk whilst driving as hand-held - last year a driver using a hands-free device was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. Brake urges government to regulate against hands-free phone use at the wheel, ridding our roads of the menace of distracted driving.”