COUNTY NEWS: Thousands use mobile at the wheel, despite risks
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that 1,424 drivers in Sussex have been prosecuted this year by police for using their mobile phone at the wheel.
The figure has been revealed in the wake of a number of high profile cases across the country, including that of Polish lorry driver, Tomasz Kroker, 30, who was jailed for ten years.
He was convicted of killing a woman and three children in August, after smashing into their car while changing a song on his mobile phone.
The horror crash was recorded by the lorry’s cab camera, which went viral on social media site, Facebook. Tracy Houghton, 45, died instantly along with her sons Ethan, 13, and Joshua, 11, and her partner’s daughter Aimee Goldsmith, also 11, on the A34 near Newbury in Berkshire.
The harrowing footage was released by Thames Valley Police on October 31, in a bid to highlight the ‘potentially catastrophic consequences of using a mobile phone whilst driving’.
The figure revealed by Sussex Police is based on this financial year and compares to 1,846 in 2015/2014, 2,474 in 2014/2013, 4,268 in 2013/2012 and 5,981 in 2012/2011.
All motorists were given fixed penalty notices. Penalty points were given to 202 drivers this year, compared to 204 in 2015/2014, 254 in 2014/2013, 3,048 in 2013/2012 and 4,424 in 2012/2011.
This financial year has also seen 993 drivers attend a road safety course instead of receiving a fixed penalty notice, 1,271 in 2015/2014, 1,722 in 2014/2013, 113 in 2013/2012 and none in 2012/2011.
Last year saw 219 drivers receive a fine for the careless driving offence, compared to 173 in 2014 and 654 in 2013.
However, the fines in 2013 had a financial cost difference of 60 per cent and 40 per cent following their increase from £60 to £100 in August 2013.
Sussex Police completed a week-long enforcement campaign in November, to crack down on motorists using their mobiles.
It was the second dedicated part of a campaign which aimed to make motorists aware of the potentially fatal consequences of being distracted by a mobile phone and to highlight the serious penalties they will face if they are caught.
The initiative started in May when officers handed out advice and penalties to drivers spotted using a mobile phone, making calls, texting or using the web.
The Department of Transport (DfT) is also set to introduce legislation doubling the punishment for using a mobile phone – with the fine rising from £100 to £200 and penalty points increasing from three to six.
This was announced in September and means a new driver could lose their licence immediately and drivers who hit the 12-point threshold will be banned after two offences instead of four.
However, motorists will now face the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter under the plans being put forward by the Government.
The new information follows the ‘Drive for Justice’ campaign run by the Mid Sussex Times and its sister titles across the country, which called for fairer sentencing following pleas from bereaved families.
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