Scots drivers continue to flout phone law

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Mobiles and Driving

By ALEXANDER LAWRIE

A SHOCKING 66 people were caught every day last year using a mobile phone while driving on Scotland’s roads.

Over 24,000 drivers were handed £60 Fixed Penalty Notices by Scotland’s eight police forces after driving dangerously.

Road safety chiefs have slammed the figures, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, as “horrendous” and “alarming”.

The numbers for 2008 have risen by almost a third compared to the previous year’s figures.

The disturbing statistics comes just weeks after a horror car smash in which two young men were tragically killed after a car ploughed into their works van.

Hugh Cowie, 50, was driving his father’s car without permission, a license or insurance, and had bent down to retrieve his mobile phone from the passenger-side footwell when he lost control of the vehicle, killing Jonathan Laughran and James Easton, who were both 24.

Cowie was caged for six years, banned from driving and ordered to re-sit his test before being allowed behind the wheel again.

But the horrific accident is just the tip of the iceberg after it was revealed a staggering 24,069 drivers on Scotland’s roads were handed official Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) after being caught using their mobiles while driving last year.

The vast majority of the country’s incidents were recorded by Strathclyde Police as over 13,000 drivers flouted the law.

Grampian’s force recorded 2649 instances of dangerous driving by using a mobile phone while in control of a vehicle, while Lothian and Borders Police also saw offences exceed 2500.

Central Police were forced to hand out 1848 FPN’s, while Fife also recorded scandalous figures last year by dishing out 1187 notices.

Andrew Hard, Head of AA Road Safety, said: “The figures are horrendous, but with an estimated 8,000 people in Scotland thought to be on the phone while driving at any one time it is hardly surprising.

“We need to change the culture of not just drivers but of everyone who calls a 07 number.

“It’s a large problem to tackle and everyone should be aware of the dangers of driving while distracted by a mobile phone.”

Last year saw a rise of almost 33 per cent in the amount of drivers prepared to break the law while on the country’s roads, with 18,871 registered notices handed out in 2007, but that figure jumped to a scandalous 24,069 last year.

Northern Constabulary and Dumfries and Galloway recorded the lowest figures of any Scottish force, but that has been put down to the sizeable difference in populations.

D&G handed out 715 FPN’s and Northern Constabulary were the lowest in the country with just 659 notices written during 2008.

And the force in Tayside also saw 1361 Fixed Penalty Notices dished out to its dangerous drivers.

But, perhaps more worryingly, between January 2005 and December 2008 Strathclyde Police reported 126 accidents that could be put down to drivers using a mobile.

The nation’s largest police force also say there have been three deaths and a further 69 casualties where “using a mobile is a contributory factor”, during the same four year period.

Grampian Police have revealed between 2005 and 2008 there have been 24 accidents, with no recorded fatalities, that using mobile phones were “a possible causation factor” of the crashes.

And in Fife, there have been three crashes recorded put down to using a mobile while in control of a vehicle, while Dumfries and Galloway force say two crashes in the last five years were down to mobile phone usage.

Northern Constabulary recorded one instance in 2005 where a driver was killed after being distracted by his ringing mobile phone.

A spokesperson for Road Safety Scotland said: “These alarming figures show that too many drivers are still putting themselves and others in danger for the sake of a phone call.

“Using a mobile behind the wheel makes you four times more likely to have a crash and it’s just not worth the risk. 

“However, it’s also clear from these stats that the police are cracking down on those drivers who haven’t got the message. 

“The increased penalty means that drivers caught using their phone will incur three penalty points and a £60 fine.  

“It’s quite simple – driving and mobile phones don’t mix.”

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