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'Time for drivers to stop using their mobile phones'

The Police Federation has welcomed tougher new penalties for drivers using their phone behind the wheel.

Jayne Willetts, the Federation's national lead on roads policing, issued a blog as new 200 fines for drivers caught on their mobiles came into effect on 1 March. Drivers will also receive six penalty points.

"Attention drivers - it's time to stop using your phone while you're behind the wheel. For good. Despite lots of media coverage, and various campaigns across forces and road user groups, I was disappointed to hear that a poll last week found some 39 per cent of drivers were not aware of the law change," Jayne wrote.

But she goes on to question whether the law goes far enough and asks what 'using' a phone while driving actually means.

"What about hands-free Bluetooth? Is holding the phone up to your ear to talk really the problem? For me the real issue is about distraction. This might be holding a phone, or driving without due care and attention - and that's the same no matter what method or device you're using. There is an exceptionally high level of concentration needed for the ever-changing risks the roads can present," Jayne says in the blog.

Earlier this year, Jayne told delegates at the Federation's Roads Policing Conference that one solution to the problem could be seizing drivers' Sim card if they are caught using their phone while driving.

And she has called for drivers to be better warned of the dangers of using their phones while driving.

"What we need is more hard-hitting education schemes. Ones that truly highlight the lack of concentration and awareness when using a phone while talking, texting, live streaming - yes that actually happens, more than you might think!. We need drivers to understand those two, three, four seconds you look at your phone could be the two, three, four seconds to lose your life, or end someone else's," says Jayne.

But she also highlights another issue saying that there are just not enough police officers on the roads to enforce the laws.

"This education should be hand in hand with enforcement - because it can't be tickets alone which change people's behaviour. More than that, we don't have the resources to rely solely on enforcement options. There just aren't enough specialist roads policing officers to spot all the people breaking the law while driving," Jayne explains.

"Across England and Wales right now, there are only 4,800 roads policing officers. Response and neighbourhood teams are too busy focusing on non roads-related issues to be able to lend a hand and unfortunately, that means many unsafe drivers are going under the radar. Investment in roads policing must happen if the Government wants to continue pushing for further enforcement - our thin blue line is at risk of becoming invisible."