Shropshire Star comment: Long road before mobile phone use stops
In what sense can it be good news that not far off 1,500 motorists in the West Mercia area were caught using their mobiles phones while driving in the year to February 28?
It is a very high level of offending in the face of concerted campaigns from the police and government to combat the prevalence of drivers using their phones while at the wheel.
But here is the good news angle. Bad though the figures are, they are much better than those of the same period in the previous year, in which 2,620 were caught. So there has been a substantial reduction.
It came at a time in which penalties for offenders have been toughened up, and that may be one deterrent factor. There has also been a mobilising of public opinion so that using a mobile phone at the wheel is now considered less socially acceptable than it once was.
A parallel can be drawn with the drink-driving laws of the 1960s and the introduction of the breathalyser just over 50 years ago, which heralded the start of a campaign to treat drink-driving truly seriously.
Nobody today looks at drink-driving as a joke - as some once did - and it is seen for what it is, a potentially murderous act of gross irresponsibility and criminality.
There was a long road before we came to that point with drink-driving. The fact that so many Shropshire motorists are still using their phones demonstrates that the campaign to stop it is going to be another long road.
Why are people still doing it? Partly it is the nature of mobile phones, which have almost become an extension of the self for some folk, who could not imagine life without them, and are in the habit of using them or checking them so regularly that they are mobile phone addicts.
The habits are so deeply ingrained that they are going to be hard to break.
And secondly, because they can. Making or taking a call at the wheel can be done unobserved. In some of the more tragic cases the evidence of mobile phone use has come through studying the call data, not through anybody seeing it happen.
For every Shropshire motorist who has been caught using their phone while driving, there will be many others who have got away with it.
Heavier penalties sound good as part of a "crackdown" and a "get tough policy", and seem to be making some people think twice, but these figures show there is still a long way to go in ensuring effective enforcement.