A POLICE crackdown on drivers using their mobile phones behind the wheel detected 81 offences in just two weeks.

Dubbed ‘Operation Telecom’, the county-wide crackdown was aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of “distracted driving.”

Commenting on the operation, Chief Inspector Robert Cheeseman, head of roads policing at Avon and Somerset Police, 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 per cent of collisions in 2023 involved a driver that was distracted. Every life lost on our roads has a profound impact and the statistics we are currently seeing are simply unacceptable.

“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.

“We can all play our part in shaping attitudes towards road safety and reducing reliance on mobile phones while driving.​

“Avon and Somerset Police remain committed to promoting road safety and will continue to conduct operations targeting dangerous driving behaviours to ensure the safety of all road users.”​

Avon and Somerset Police said they made use of a number of detection methods to identify drivers who were using their phone, including highly visible patrols, unmarked vehicles, plain clothes officers and officers stationed at known hotspots.

The 81 detected offences represent a marked increase on the previous year’s operation, which identified only 49 offences in a two week period.

During Operation Telecom officers detected a further 32 traffic incidents, including speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

It comes after the Avon and Somerset Police Road Safety Unit launched a new driver training initiative dubbed ‘Raise Your Drive’ - a campaign specifically aimed at educating young drivers about the so-called ‘fatal five.’

It follows a similar scheme aimed at motorcycle riders, named ‘Raise Your Ride’, which was backed by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford

Mr Shelford said: “Nationally, motorcyclists only make up approximately 1-2 per cent of road traffic but represent around 21-23 per cent of the road causalities. This is why I strongly encourage motorcyclists to take part in this initiative so you are aware of advanced riding techniques to keep yourself safe.

“We all have a part to play in ensuring that our roads are safe for everyone who is using them and, from the feedback the course has received, motorcyclists who have taken part have found it incredibly useful.”

The initiative is a partnership between Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset Road Safety, which teaches advanced driving techniques to riders.

For further information about upcoming Raise Your Drive courses, email: [email protected]