A police boss is calling for a new crackdown on motorists who use their mobile phones and smart devices when they’re driving.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has pledged to make road safety a priority in his Police and Crime Plan which will set out a blueprint for policing the region.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, was speaking after a visit to North Wales Police’s Roads Policing Unit in St Asaph.
According Mr Jones, using a mobile or smart device was one of the “fatal five” factors when people were killed or seriously injured on the roads – the others being speeding, being under the influence of drink or drugs, dangerous or careless driving and not wearing seatbelt.
Drivers caught using a hand held device when driving can expect anything from three penalty points on their licence and a fine of up to £100. If the case goes to court the maximum fine increases to £1,000 and it can result in a disqualification from driving.
Causing death by dangerous driving can lead to a prison sentence of up to 14 years and a disqualification for a minimum of two years.
It’s also been revealed some of the drivers who’ve been caught have had increases of 300-400 per cent in their insurance premiums
Mr Jones said: “Using a mobile phone whilst driving is one of the fatal five offences and I think it’s a big part of accidents.
“It’s as dangerous as speeding in causing accidents and, of course, part of my brief is to reduce the amount of people who are injured or killed in accidents and I like to see more being done about the use of mobile phones.
“If people were dying because of another type of crime, there would be much more resources going into it than goes into roads policing.”
Chief Inspector Darren Wareing, who’s in charge of the Roads Policing Unit, is passionate about making the roads of North Wales safer.
He said “We spend a lot of time researching what we as police need to do in respect of affecting people’s behaviour.
“The only thing that affects people is the fear of being caught, not the fear of the consequences.
“We all think I’m going to be ok, it’s not going to happen to me. But in a heartbeat that can change, and it’s those people that actually cause those collisions and accidents on the road.
“We have our strategy around reducing the risk of a collision and it is aimed around the fatal five strands and the use of mobile phones is one of them.
“We’re fully supported by the communities because they see drivers on their phones and they think that they’re at risk.
“It’s more than phone calls. People are also using smart devices, Facebook, WhatsApp messenger whilst driving, emails. People live their lives on social media and it doesn’t stop in the car.
“People use mobile phones and think they’re doing no harm. They want to take that call that they think is so important and let’s be honest, it’s not is it?
“We’ve had one where somebody was on a phone and we’ve had the recording and they’ve passed away, it was awful.
“So, if we see somebody who’s distracted and not in proper control of their vehicle, we’ll take positive action.
“We might give them three points, we might give them a £100 fine or they might go to court but as soon as they disclose that to their insurance companies there’s a higher chance of them crashing so their premiums go through the roof. Some people have had increases of 300-400 per cent in their premiums.”