Caught red-handed: Distracted Somerset drivers learn tough road safety lessons

Life, for many of us, revolves around our mobile phones. But not only is using your phone while driving against the law – that split-second distraction could have devastating consequences.

An eye-opening morning out with Somerset County Council’s Road Safety team in Yeovil, to hit home these dangers, highlighted a stark reality.

Distracted drivers fiddling with their phones are all too common on our county’s roads.

So how did the Council’s Road Safety operation work? Stationed a short distance along the road up from Reckleford Fire Station in Yeovil, to subtly keep a watchful eye on the flow of traffic, Road Safety officers Dave Robinson and Malcolm Dykes identified offending drivers.

Once spotted, they radioed licence plates to colleagues Mike Smalley and Steve Greenhalgh, based right outside Yeovil’s Reckleford Fire Station.

crop Mike and Steve

Mike and Steve – with some help from Avon & Somerset Police – were then able to flag down and speak to these drivers about the risks they were putting themselves, their passengers, and other motorists in.

And it wasn’t just mobile phone offences Somerset County Council’s safety experts spied.

Many others spotted and stopped by our team outside Reckleford Fire Station in Yeovil were, incredibly, guilty of not wearing their seatbelts.

There was no trend in the age of people stopped, with the eldest motorist 82 and the youngest, 21. There were mums and professionals, young drivers and ‘old hands’.

A total of fifteen people were spotted and stopped in our short Yeovil operation. All of them have signed up to attend a driver education session.

Event coordinator Mike Smalley, said: “We’ve educated 250 people in the past year through not-for-profit awareness days such as this one.

“Those who sign-up for our education sessions tell us how much they have got out of them. They hadn’t realised the extent to which they had been putting themselves at risk.”

Dave Robinson added: “In less than 20 minutes of us starting our watch, I saw half a dozen drivers who could have been stopped.

“We spotted and pulled over two in the space of 10 minutes who were using their mobiles at the wheel.”

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Road Safety Policy, said: “You’re four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving.

“The average journey is less than 15 minutes long. If you really think you can’t do that journey without using your mobile phone, get someone else to drive for you. It’s just not worth risking your life for.”

Somerset Road Safety will be back watching the roads with their ‘don’t phone and drive’ awareness days in November and December.

Did you know?
• You’re four times more likely to crash if you use a mobile phone while driving. Reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50% slower than if driving normally
• More than a million drivers have been convicted of using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel since 2003, when using one other than to make an emergency call was made illegal
• It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device supervising a learner driver or rider.
• You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you’re caught using a hand-held phone while driving or riding. You’ll get three penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100.