Scotland

Police Scotland catch 339 drivers using phones illegally

Man holding mobile phone while driving Image copyright Getty Images

An average of 12 drivers a day were caught using their mobile phones illegally in Scotland, in the wake of a major crackdown on the practice.

A total of 339 motorists were penalised for the offence by Police Scotland in the four weeks after tougher punishments took effect on 1 March.

They were among almost 6,000 drivers caught using a phone at the wheel by police forces across Britain.

Penalties for the offence doubled to six points and a £200 fine.

The changes mean new drivers risk losing their licence for sending a single text.

The figures emerged in response to a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests by the Press Association.

Campaigners claimed the "worrying" findings suggest many drivers are ignoring repeated warnings about the dangers of using phones at the wheel despite a string of publicity campaigns and the risk of harsher sanctions.

It found that police recorded 5,977 instances of the practice between 1 and 28 March in England, Scotland and Wales.

The actual figure is likely to be higher as seven forces did not provide figures and some cases may not have been logged at the time FOI responses were issued.

'Driver distraction'

The Metropolitan Police registered the highest number at 2,037, while Police Scotland recorded the third highest total.

The RAC Foundation described the increased penalties as "a start", but warned the figures for March suggest "the key message still isn't sinking in".

Steve Gooding, director of the motoring research charity, said: "Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen."

Brake spokesman Jack Kushner described the number of drivers "selfishly using their mobile phones behind the wheel" as concerning.

"Driver distraction is a growing menace and it's worrying that drivers don't seem to be getting the message," he said.

The charity wants the £200 fine to be "significantly increased" to deter offenders.

Police say they want to make using a mobile while driving as "socially unacceptable" as drink-driving.

Anthony Bangham, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "Drivers need to understand that this is not a minor offence and you will be prosecuted under new, tougher penalties."

He said forces were committed to tackling the behaviour, adding: "Encouraging results from recent campaigns show how effective new tactics and innovative approaches can be."

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