Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP) is launching It Can Wait, a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of in-car distractions from your mobile phone.
Driving while distracted is an increasing problem on Sussex roads with mobile phones now used to make calls, send messages, play music and check road conditions, temptations to use devices while at the wheel are endless.
It Can Wait aims to remind drivers that nothing is more important than focussing on driving – and driving alone. The campaign is urging drivers to place their phone out of reach, or set it to silent, before setting off on a journey to ensure they are not distracted or tempted to pick it up while driving.
SSRP member organisations are supporting the campaign and spreading the message county-wide. Sussex Police will be running two weeks of enforcement from 23-29 January, and 1-7 March. Although these will very much be business as usual, it is an opportunity for the police to conduct visible patrols, focussing on a very relevant subject.
East Sussex and West Sussex Fire & Rescue Services will be supporting It Can Wait by focussing on prevention. Firefighters will be out in the community raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving to encourage all Sussex road users to put their phone out of reach when at the wheel. The combination of prevention campaigning by the fire service and designated enforcement activities by the police aims to reduce the number of people needlessly harmed or killed on our roads due to distracted driving.
Sergeant Badman of Sussex Police's Roads Policing Unit (RPU), explains, "The law states that you can only use a hand-held mobile phone when you are the driver if you need to call 999 or 112. Other than that, you can only use a hand-held device if you are safely parked. You cannot use it when you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. These laws are set to keep people safe and alive on the roads. Working in RPU, I have seen far too many incidents where drivers were distracted by their phones – and it's not worth it. Checking a text seems so insignificant – both at the time, but also once you've crashed, and lives have been changed.”
The current campaign is running in anticipation of expected changes to the consequences of using your phone whilst driving. Currently, the penalties include a £100 fine and three points on your driving licence. In 2016, the government conducted a consultation with the public and the results were greatly encouraging for safety; it is anticipated the penalties will rise to £200 and six points in early March 2017, although this is yet to be confirmed.
This is of particular note to newly qualified drivers; if you acquire six points on your licence within two years of obtaining your full one, you will lose it.
We’re being asked to back the campaign by sharing social media posts and encouraging others to turn off mobiles when driving. You can report drivers who are using their phones at the wheel via Operation Crackdown.