IT’S more dangerous than drink-driving and yet thousands of motorists are still putting lives at risk by using their mobile phones behind the wheel.
The Echo went out to see how many people we could catch using their phones at the wheel at Cemetery Junction - and we repeatedly saw drivers breaking the law. See the full gallery here.
The county’s top traffic cop says talking, texting or looking at something on a phone while driving is extremely distracting and reminded drivers: “No call is worth taking behind the wheel.”
Last year 3,504 motorists were caught using their phones behind the wheel in Dorset – up from the 3,229 nabbed in 2010 and a 91 per cent increase on those caught in 2007 when the legislation was introduced.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists say these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with eight per cent of drivers admitting to using smartphones for email and social networking while driving – equivalent to a staggering 3.5 million licence holders across the country.
It reports using smartphones while driving is more dangerous than drink-driving or being high on cannabis behind the wheel.
Research has found texting on a mobile phone slows reaction times by 37.4 per cent and while driving alcohol at the legal limit slows reaction times by 12.5 per cent and cannabis by 21 per cent.
Chief Inspector Bob Nichols, of Dorset Police’s traffic unit, pictured inset, said: “Our message really is quite simple. The degree of distraction it causes is very serious.
“No call is worth taking behind the wheel.
“We have dealt with a number of fatal collisions over the years where we know that the use of a mobile phone was the cause or a significant factor in the collision.
Chf Insp Nichols said Dorset Police’s No Excuse campaign had helped spread the message that using a mobile phone while driving was illegal and people doing it would get caught.
Tackling motorists who use phones while driving is a priority for Dorset Police, who say driver distraction is one of the four main contributory factors in the severity of road collisions – known as the fatal four. The others are excessive and inappropriate speeds, drink or drug driving and not wearing a seat belt.
Chf Insp Nichols said drivers caught on their phones often came up with some “bizarre” excuses.
He said: “One driver was looking at pictures on his mobile phone and said it was OK because he wasn’t using the phone to text or call.”
They have also caught a new driver who had wedged their mobile phone in the steering wheel; and woman eating chips and curry sauce while texting and driving.
Anyone caught using a phone while driving will receive three penalty points on their licence and a £60 fine. Some motorists are offered the opportunity to take part in the Driver Awareness Course at a cost of £105 instead of having points.
The number of fixed-penalty tickets issued to drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone were:
• 2007: 1,837
• 2008: 1,716
• 2009: 2,150
• 2010: 3,229
• 2011: 3,502
• 2012 (Jan and Feb): 452
In 2009 Gwent Police produced a dramatic video aimed at showing teeenagers the danger of texting and driving. We have embedded it below. It's very graphic, so if you have young children, check it before you let them watch it.