THE number of motorists caught using a mobile phone at the wheel has more than doubled since Police Scotland was formed.
A police blitz snared 967 Edinburgh mobile phone drivers between April and July this year – a massive hike on last year when only 421 people were caught in the same period.
The rise is a clear signal the new force is sustaining a constant crackdown on people who risk the lives of themselves and others because they can’t bear to miss that call.
The crackdown – enforced with hard-to-spot unmarked cars – has been welcomed by the AA and safety campaigners, especially as mobile driving has been shown to impair driving ability almost as much as booze.
An AA spokesman said: “Drivers have for years thought they could get away with bad habits, particularly in relation to mobile phones.
“They should bear in mind that being penalised for driving while on a mobile phone is infinitely better than going to jail for having killed a child.”
Since the creation of the single force on April 1, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has made tackling road traffic offences one of his top priorities.
During the same period, there has been a near fourfold increase in speeding fines, jumping from 350 to 1200.
And 869 drivers were caught not wearing a seat belt, up from 347, as officers target trunk roads in a bid to boost safety.
Under new powers brought into effect last month, officers can now slap inconsiderate motorists with £100 fines – instead of £60 – for speeding or using a phone while driving as well issue three penalty points on a licence. Fines for failing to wear a seat belt also rose from £60 to £100.
Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, Edinburgh’s police commander, warned drivers he won’t be putting the brakes on the crackdown any time soon.
He said: “Road safety is a very high priority. We have been asked to make a real shift in focus around road policing.
“This is not about the persecution of drivers. It is about keeping people safe on the road. The number killed or seriously injured is far too high.
“We spent a lot of time asking the people of Edinburgh what they wanted from policing and a consistent theme was that of road safety.”
LAY OF THE LAW
WE told last month how Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House had vowed to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to dangerous drivers.
Under section 165 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act, police can stop a vehicle for any reason.
They can also ask drivers to pull over if they have reason to suspect specific criminality, or if that vehicle has been involved in an accident.