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article imageOp-Ed: Mobile phones and driving — A police crackdown is not enough

By Alexander Baron     Nov 27, 2011 in Crime
At least two of the country's police forces have recently mounted crackdowns on drivers who use their mobile phones at the wheel, but this is not enough.
There are some crimes on which the public is largely ineducable. Everyone knows you shouldn't drink and drive, but those who can drive and do drink alcohol often do both, including people who have no excuse or mitigation at all, like George Michael who went one better and drove under the influence of something a might stronger than a lager and lime. Next time George, hire a chauffeur.
The dangers of driving under the influence of any drug are well documented, and it is no use telling the magistrate you were only doing 20mph in a 40mph zone, and that if you hadn't had a few you would have driven at your regular speed, therefore when you were stopped, you were actually driving with greater care and attention than normal.
A practice that is arguably even more dangerous than driving under the influence is driving while phoning or even texting, because at least a drunk driver can give the road his undivided attention; try sending a text while negotiating traffic safely. On second thoughts, don't.
Last week at least two police forces instigated crackdowns on people who drive and phone, drive and text. Derbyshire Police promised a blitz until today, Sunday, and in this connection, Inspector Adam Waterfall spelt it out: “Drivers who talk on a phone are four times more likely to be involved in a crash and reading or writing text messages behind the wheel is even more distracting as you focus your eyes and mind on your mobile.”
Down south in Wokingham, the local plod were hard at work stopping uninsured drivers and others; in two hours they pulled over no less than five who were using their mobiles while driving. From my personal experience this is very untypical, because on a short walk to the local shops and back I can usually spot a minimum of 3 without trying. A few weeks ago, one of these lunatics - in a white van - nearly ran me down as he veered sharply from a side road into the high street, Sydenham Road. I was so annoyed that I took his number, and when I got home I phoned the local police station only to be told that for any action to be taken I would have to attend personally and fill out a form, even though I pointed out that this incident happened right under one of those CCTV cameras that Big Brother has been putting up all over the place for the past two decades and more.
I declined the invitation, having gone to this trouble before when a woman in an SUV nearly ran me down in Central London.
The Crime Stoppers line enables people to report minor crimes or even not so minor crimes anonymously, with all the unpleasant side effects you would expect from that. Driving without due care and attention is not a minor crime, and people who are prepared to put their names to their grievances should be able to do so without being unnecessarily inconvenienced or dissuaded.
Apart from that, the fines handed out are not a meaningful deterrent, in addition the police should be able to confiscate the phone in question under the Proceeds Of Crime Act, the same way they can and do confiscate the property of some people who have committed no crime at all.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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