A Crackdown on drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel has been launched today, as part of a Gwent Police-led initiative.

The four police forces in Wales, led by Gwent Police and in partnership with Road Safety Wales, have launched the enforcement campaign, in a bid to clamp down on ‘distracted driving’ – said to be the single biggest cause of death and injuries on roads in 2016.

The campaign, which will run until Sunday November 20, will urge all road users to ‘keep their eyes on the road’, with officers speaking to drivers about the dangers of using phones and being distracted.

Officers will also be stopping motorists using their mobile phones while driving and any offenders can expect a £100 fine and three points on their licence.

The campaign has been launched in response to a national rise in motorists using phones to make calls, texts or social media updates when driving.

In Wales, more than 500 motorists were caught using their mobile phones during a similar campaign in 2015, with around 2,782 drivers caught for similar offences in Gwent since 2012.

A total of 1,355 fixed penalty notices were issued in 2012, and the rate of offences has steadily declined since then.

In 2013 there was 628, 434 in 2014, 192 in 2015 and this year, so far, there has been 173.

But Gwent Police chief inspector Huw Jones was keen to stress that despite this, it only takes a second or a “slight lapse in concentration”

to result in serious consequences, and leave experienced drivers to become another statistic.

“Smart phones are a key part of modern life and we are also seeing drivers being distracted whilst checking social media, reading their emails or accessing the internet,” he added, saying the threat is ever present.

“Drivers need to be aware that these actions carry the same danger and the same penalty.”

The chair of Road Safety Wales, Susan Storch, added: “Driving a vehicle requires us to multi-task so anything above and beyond that needs to wait until we are safely parked up or until our journey has finished.

“Campaigns such as this demonstrate the resolve of all the Road Safety Wales partners in tackling this issue and we will continue to work together to drive home the message of not using your mobile phone behind the wheel.

“No call or text is that important.”

The campaign also warns that any phone usage behind the wheel is illegal – including while at a red light – and that drivers should stop at the ‘first safe opportunity’ to answer calls or texts and park safely while doing so.

Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500 under the scheme and drivers who receive six points in the first two years after passing their test also will lose their licence.

Chief inspector Jones added: “A lapse in concentration when driving can be devastating and this is why officers from all four Welsh forces will be carrying out proactive patrols to target motorists who endanger road users in this way.

“Our main message is clear; keep your eyes on the road.”

Gwent police will update social media with guidance throughout the campaign with the hashtag #eyesontheroad and for more information, visit www.gwent.police.uk

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