REDBRIDGE: Drivers on mobiles not a priority, say police (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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REDBRIDGE: Drivers on mobiles not a priority, say police
10:36am Monday 22nd September 2008 in News
ROAD safety campaigners have slammed police after it was revealed that fewer people were caught using their mobile phones while driving in Redbridge than anywhere else in London.
Over the past year only 150 people were prosecuted for the offence in the borough, a stark contrast to neighbouring Waltham Forest, where over 1,800 motorists were caught in the same period.
The figures, revealed during the London Mayor’s question time, also show Redbridge has had the least prosecutions for the offence for three years in a row.
London Assembly Green Party Member Jenny Jones, who tabled the question, said: “There’s absolutely no logic to it at all why the figures are so different between neighbouring boroughs like Redbridge and Waltham Forest.
“It’s not that Redbridge’s drivers are better than those in Waltham Forest - obviously Redbridge police don’t believe that this is a matter they should care about.
“They should be very embarrassed. It really is time that they take this issue seriously.”
She added: “Driving while using a mobile phone can be more dangerous than drink driving and is completely reckless behaviour.
“I think part of the problem is people don’t realise how distracting it is and they think they can get away with it, so what we need is better enforcement and better education of drivers.”
The figures come in the wake of a study last week by the RAC which found that people who read or write text messages while driving are more at risk of crashing than many drunk drivers.
And according to the Department of Transport, 28 people died in 2006 because of accidents in which mobile phones played a “contributing factor”, with phones also implicated in 57 serious accidents and 260 slight accidents.
A spokeswoman for Redbridge Police admitted catching drivers with mobiles was not a high priority.
She added: “We at Redbridge take the issue of people using their mobile phones seriously, especially as it is one of the actions that can lead to road accidents.
“The issuing of a fixed penalty notice is only one way of dealing with this offence and officers are able to use their discretion to issue a warning.
"Where people have failed to respond to a warning, or there are aggravating factors, a fixed penalty notice will be issued.
“With finite resources we have to prioritise our enforcement efforts to those issues the people of Redbridge consider important.
“This offence is not seen as a priority by any of the 21 ward panels, who direct the work of our Safer Neighbourhood Teams and it has not, to date, featured as an area of concern in public surveys across the borough.”