Gloucestershire

Police chief Suzette Davenport: Politicians ignore mobiles-at-wheel laws

Suzette Davenport
Image caption Suzette Davenport wants driving disqualifications for those caught using a phone at the wheel

Tougher penalties for drivers using mobile phones at the wheel are being ignored to keep voters happy, a police chief says.

Suzette Davenport said any increase by politicians in punishments for drivers caught "would not be popular".

With an election in May, Ms Davenport - Gloucestershire's chief constable - said the government was keen to avoid such unhelpful changes.

But, the roads minister denied making decisions based on popularity.

Ms Davenport - who is also the lead for roads policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers - believes using mobile phones at the wheel poses a "significant risk" and people should face serious consequences.

'Using social media'

"My view is that if someone is caught twice using a mobile phone within a period of time we should be considering things like disqualifications for short periods of time," she said.

"I believe if we don't do something fundamentally different we are going to lose this."

Image copyright PA
Image caption A recent survey found more people are likely to be sending texts or using social media than making calls

Responding to the claim the issue is being deliberately ignored, roads minister Robert Goodwill MP said: "I've certainly not had representations from colleagues saying, 'Don't do this, because of the election'.

"I may have had colleagues saying, 'Don't do this, because we need to think about the actual numbers of people we catch'.

"Because, as with any offence, the penalty is part of the story but getting caught is the other part of the story.

"And I think it's important that Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables look at the resources they put into this, as opposed to other more easy-to-detect crimes like speeding."

Last week, a Department for Transport survey found people who use their mobile phones while driving are more likely to be sending texts or using social media than making a phone call.

Observations at 60 sites in five areas of England and 30 locations in Scotland last October, reported 1.1% of drivers holding a mobile in their hand compared with 0.5% with a phone to their ear.

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