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Huge increase in Sussex drivers using mobile phones
The number of Sussex drivers caught using their mobile phones at the wheel has increased by 54% in just two years, new figures have revealed.
Motoring groups have called the findings “extremely concerning”, with experts predicting that cases will only increase with the growing popularity of Smartphones and apps.
An AA spokesman called the rise a “real problem”, adding that people were “addicted” to their mobiles.
He said: “They know they’re not supposed to do it, but when that phone goes off on the passenger seat they feel that they have to answer it straight away.”
The figures, which show the penalty notices broken down by police force area, were revealed following a question in Parliament from Andrew Griffiths, MP for Burton.
In 2008, 2,742 drivers in the county were stopped by police for using their mobiles at the wheel.
That figure went up to 3,623 in 2009 before leaping to 4,250 the following year.
In comparison, the latest figures for the surrounding forces are much lower.
In Hampshire, just 1,700 motorists were caught in 2010, down from 5,152 two years ago.
In Surrey 3,388 were caught, up from 2,939 in 2010 and in Dorset just 1,129 were caught down from 1,489.
The latest figures also put Sussex as tenth highest out of the 43 forces listed for offending.
An AA spokesman said: “It could be viewed that the increase is due to extra efforts by police to catch offenders.
“However, I think the numbers speak for themselves because forces will often put an increased emphasis on certain offences when they feel there is a problem in the first place.”
Experts are warning that the problem is likely to get worse with the increase in popularity of Smartphones and mobile apps.
An example of this kind of offending hit the headlines last month when police caught 80 drivers taking pictures of a woman being cut out of her car on the M1.
Sussex Police have repeatedly warned motorists about using mobile phones, but admit that they are experiencing a rise.
A spokesman said: “It has increased over the years from texting and calling to email and other uses of the internet.
“We have become increasingly robust with dealing with offenders.
“They can be a contributory factor in collisions as people are distracted. Sussex Police is committed to reducing deaths and injuries on the road and will continue to target those who choose to use their phones whilst driving.”
Amy Aeron-Thomas, executive director of the RoadPeace, said that research had proved that using a phone at the wheel is even more dangerous than drink driving.
She added: “Using a mobile phone is highly dangerous and should be treated as such.
“We have serious concerns however that with dwindling numbers of traffic police and without fear of detection or enforcement that this cannot be sustained.
“Drivers must learn to switch off before they turn on.”