'˜Laws banning mobile phone use while driving need updating'

Laws banning mobile phone use when driving need to catch up with technology, according to Sussex Police's chief constable.

Chief constable at Sussex Police Giles  York
Chief constable at Sussex Police Giles York

Just under 1,000 people have been stopped across the county since the start of 2016.

The current penalty is a £100 fine and either three points on a driving licence or attending a diversion course.

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As part of government plans, the points and fine are set to double, but last week Giles York, chief constable at Sussex Police, said: “There’s something about the mobile phone offence that needs to be updated.”

During last week’s Performance and Accountability meeting, he explained that the legislation as currently worded referred to making calls and sending and looking at messages, but might not cover uses such as scrolling for music or browsing social media site Instagram.

He added: “Hopefully they will modernise that legislation.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne asked what officers were doing to catch people using their phones while driving.

Deputy chief constable Bernie O’Reilly replied: “This is something we take really really seriously and we are doing everything we can.”

While enforcement was one key area for Sussex Police, he argued that education and making mobile phone use behind the wheel socially unacceptable were also important.

He added: “In terms of using mobile phones while driving it’s making it as socially unacceptable, like how drink-driving is compared to 20 to 25 years ago.”

Of the around 1,000 drivers stopped for mobile phone use, around half attended a diversion course run by Sussex Safer Roads Partnership called ‘What’s Driving Us’.

Mr O’Reilly explained how on patrol that week he had stopped a driver looking for music who admitted to not being in control of their vehicle, which is a different charge.

He added: “Any lapse of concentration while driving can have a hugely terrible impact.”

It was explained that not being in control of a vehicle was not a lesser offence than using a mobile phone while driving.

Mrs Bourne told the meeting that if new drivers are convicted of using their mobile phone behind the wheel in the first 12 months they are stripped of their licence and have to re-apply.

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