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Taxi drivers ‘worst culprits’ for using phones at the wheel

PUBLISHED: 05:30 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:29 11 February 2019

Inspector Chris Hinitt of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads and Armed Policing Team Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Inspector Chris Hinitt of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads and Armed Policing Team Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Taxi and private hire drivers were the worst culprits for using mobile phones at the wheel according to traffic studies conducted at Suffolk sites, it has emerged.

A traffic survey observed one in a hundred drivers using a hand-held mobile phone  Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIREA traffic survey observed one in a hundred drivers using a hand-held mobile phone Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIRE

Police believe a “cultural tipping point” is being reached in drivers’ attitudes to wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones, as the results of a wide-reaching road survey are published.

The national study – which saw officers monitor three sites in Suffolk – recorded the number of motorists on their phones, or not wearing a seatbelt.

It found 1% of car drivers on phones, and 3.5% not wearing a seatbelt.

Sites in the latest 2017 Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) study included the B1116 near Framlingham, the corner of Hadleigh Road and London Road, in Ipswich, and A1066 near Diss.

Results showed the most frequent phone users were taxi or private hire drivers (3.3%), followed by van drivers (2.1%), car drivers (1%) and truckers (0.6%).

Drivers aged 17-29 were twice as likely to use a phone as those aged 30-59, while the overall likelihood doubled without a passenger.

Roads policing inspector Chris Hinitt said most now heeded laws rolled out in 1983 for seatbelts, and 2003 for phones.

But a belligerent few persist, said Insp Hinitt, who branded those behind the main causes of death or serious injury – speed, drink and drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt or using a phone – as “idiots”.

Insp Hinnitt said young people were also more likely to drug-drive and at least 90% were male.

“If you ignore the law, you’re more at risk of putting people in danger. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an idiot,” he added.

The latest survey found 96.5% of drivers using a seatbelt, compared to 95.3% in 2014.

Again, taxi drivers were followed by drivers of ‘other vehicles’ and cars as the worst culprits although some licence exemptions exist.

In 2017, penalties for phone use increased, but Insp Hinitt said: “I don’t see a great deal of difference since penalties increased, but I think we are better at targeting it. I hope we’re reaching a tipping point, culturally.

“If you go back to when seatbelts were introduced, there was massive non-compliance, but it’s now the absolute norm – it’s a natural thing. “Cars are fitted with warning alarms and you’ll fail your test if you don’t put it on.

He added: “We’re just about there with car drivers, but there will still be a belligerent few out there.

“With van drivers, I think it comes down to a bit of laziness, if they’re making deliveries, and there are limited exemptions for goods vehicles (travelling no more than 50 metres between stops).”

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