Police clampdown on mobile phone-using drivers
Police across Wales have launched a two-week crackdown on motorists who drive while using hand-held mobile phones.
Patrols by all four Welsh forces are being stepped up until 5 October.
Ian Arundale, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, said the aim was to make texting or phoning at the wheel just as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
The campaign follows a powerful road safety video that became an internet hit, created by Newport students.
The short film Cow, starring young actors from Newport Film School, shows a teenager killing four people in a collision when she uses her mobile phone to send a text.
It was seen by more than 7m people after it was posted on YouTube in 2009.'Zero tolerance'
The new campaign is being led by Dyfed-Powys Police on behalf of the four Welsh forces and hopes to build on the success of Cow.
Since 2007 those caught using a phone while driving are given three penalty points and a £60 fine, but police say some motorists have not been deterred.
Mr Arundale said that using a mobile phone while driving makes the user four times more likely to have an accident and the campaign would see a "zero tolerance" approach among officers.
"When you're using a handheld device at the wheel you're distracted and your reactions will be affected.
"It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration before you could become the cause of a serious collision or be involved in a fatal road traffic collision.
"We want the use of a mobile phone at the wheel to be seen as just as reckless and socially unacceptable as drink-driving and anyone caught using their mobile phone while driving will be prosecuted."
So far in 2011, Dyfed-Powys Police have issued 1,352 endorsable tickets to drivers for misusing mobile phones, while in 2010 they issued 2,122.
At Thursday's launch at the Merlin Theatre in Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, 100 students will hear from road safety professionals, Pembrokeshire council and police officers about the dangers of using hand-held phones while driving.
End Quote Ian Arundale Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable
We want the use of a mobile phone at the wheel to be seen as just as reckless and socially unacceptable as drink-driving and anyone caught using their mobile phone while driving will be prosecuted”
They will also see a clip from Cow and a new short film produced by a youth group in Milford Haven.Demonstrating dangers
Sue Storch, chair of the Road Safety Wales partnership of local authorities, said the earlier film had become a useful tool in educating young people about the dangers of texting and phoning while at the wheel.
She said: "As part of the police school liaison core programme four short clips from the Cow video are shown to young people in Key Stage 4 of the education process to demonstrate the dangers and impact of distractions when driving.
"Utilising this informative and effective video enables road safety professionals and school liaison officers to encourage young adults to explore and understand the consequences of such actions."
Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins-Hughes produced Cow for Gwent Police as an educational tool for young motorists.Unexpected impact
Profits generated by the film have been used to commission crime prevention films and award bursaries to young filmmakers via the Gwent Independent Film Trust (Gift).
Chris Morris, professor of documentary films at University of Wales, Newport, said: "Absolutely nobody thought Cow was going to have the impact it did.
"The students were crucial to the making of it, because we only had a small budget but the internet made a huge difference.
"Within a few weeks it had more than 6m hits and we've since been contacted by firms in Australia, Canada and Africa asking for copies to use in businesses where employees drive the public or goods.
"It strikes a chord with everybody, no matter how old you are."