A man eating a bowl of cereal at the wheel of his car was just one of the people stopped by traffic officers in Greater Manchester as part of the beginning of a major operation to catch those who disregard the safety of other road users.
Last week, officers began targeting the main routes around Greater Manchester to enforce the law and educate drivers on the dangers of using a mobile phone while behind the wheel, following on from Chief Constable Ian Hopkins’ statement that doing so is the same as drink driving and must be stopped.
You wouldn’t drink and drive so why is it ok to use a phone when in control of a vehicle? We can all make a difference by urging people to think about their actionsSupt Craig Thompson
Officers have been using undercover and marked police vehicles to catch people, with the operation continuing throughout the coming weeks and in the run up to Christmas.
In the first week alone, 142 people were stopped for using a phone and a further four reprimanded for not being in proper control of a vehicle. This included one driver who was eating their cereal while driving along Manchester Road in Hyde.
Last week supported a national week of action to highlight the risks and make people aware of the serious penalties that they will face.
Superintendent Craig Thompson said: “Last week was just the beginning of our focus on these offences over the coming weeks and send a clear message to anyone using a mobile phone while driving – it will absolutely not be tolerated here in Greater Manchester and it must stop.
“As Chief Constable Hopkins said last week, it is time for drivers to take personal responsibility for what they do when in charge of a vehicle. You wouldn’t drink and drive so why is it ok to use a phone when in control of a vehicle? We can all make a difference by urging people to think about their actions.”
From next year, new penalties will be in place seeing drivers get six points on their licence and a £200 spot fine for using a mobile phone while driving.
More than 5,000 drivers in Greater Manchester have been given fixed penalty notices or sent on a mobile phone awareness course in the past two years. Traffic officers believe those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg with an increasing number of people being spotted driving and using their mobile phones.
GMP will also be raising awareness of the issue through social media and calling on people to consider what they are doing. It is part of a #wrongfortheroad campaign that will continue to target unacceptable behaviour on the roads of Greater Manchester.
Anyone with details of persistent offenders who are driving and using their mobile should contact local officers or call 101 with details.