Police catch more than 80 people using mobiles behind the wheel during two-week operation

SCORES of people were caught using mobile phones behind the wheel during a crackdown in Somerset.

Avon and Somerset Roads Policing officers ran a two-week operation targeting mobile phone use while driving, resulting in 81 offences being identified.

Operation Telecom, which ran between February 26 and March 10, was part of an annual national roads policing operation aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.​

While use of a mobile phone at the wheel is illegal, any driver distraction – including use of a handsfree device – significantly raises the likelihood of being involved in a fatal or serious injury collision. ​​

Chief Inspector Robert Cheeseman, Head of Roads Policing, said: “A driver using a handheld mobile phone or handsfree mobile phone is four times more likely to be involved in a collision than an undistracted driver.

“Within Avon and Somerset, 33% of collisions in 2023 involved a driver that was distracted.”

Various methods of detection were used during Op Telecom. As well as highly-visible patrols, the team used unmarked vehicles, officers stationed at local ‘hotspots’ and officers in plain clothes. ​

On March 5, officers dealing with an eight-vehicle collision on the M4 saw numerous incidents of drivers passing the scene using a handheld device. ​

In total, 81 drivers were caught during the two-week operation, compared to 49 offences recorded in a similar operation in 2023. ​

Meanwhile, in addition to mobile phone offences, officers recorded a further 32 traffic offences, including failure to wear a seatbelt and driving at excess speed.​

Ch Insp Cheeseman stressed poor driver behaviour is directly linked to fatal and serious injury collisions, saying this urgently needs to be addressed.

“Every life lost on our roads has a profound impact and the statistics we are currently seeing are simply unacceptable,” he said.​

“In 2023, Avon and Somerset Police attended and investigated 54 fatal road traffic collisions, resulting in the tragic loss of 63 lives. Already in 2024, 11 lives have been lost in fatal collisions. ​

“The majority of these can be attributed to one or more of the Fatal Five: drink and drug driving, excess speed, use of a mobile phone at the wheel, failure to wear a seatbelt, and careless driving. ​

“There is an urgent need to address careless and dangerous driving behaviours.”

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.