HORSHAM police have vowed to crack down on distracted drivers until they stop using mobile phones behind the wheel.
Police issued 24 per cent more fines to drivers using mobile phones in the last financial year than the 2011-12 financial year.
Victoria Police statistics show Horsham police gave 247 penalty notices in 2012-13, compared with 199 the previous financial year.
The police service area ranked in the upper quarter of the 54 Victoria Police service areas included in the data.
Twenty-five police service areas fined fewer drivers during the same period.
“What we are seeing is due to the proliferation of mobile phones,” Horsham Senior Sergeant Brendan Broadbent said.
“The offence of using mobile phones while driving has been steadily increasing, along with the enforcement of it.
“Our analysis shows one of the biggest causes of serious injuries in vehicle accidents is driver distraction and fatigue, particularly in our service area. So we have increased our focus on those factors.”
Sen Sgt Broadbent said Horsham police had targeted people using their mobile phones while driving.
“We’ve found younger drivers tend to use more texts rather than talking into their phones, which is sometimes harder to detect,” he said.
“A lot of our data indicates accidents caused by driver distraction happen on straighter bits of road, where people aren’t concentrating as much.
“But that’s where vehicles tend to diverge off the road.
“Drivers need to be fully aware and focused on doing just that – driving.”
Sen Sgt Broadbent said the message needed to be reinforced.
“If you get a phone call, pull over and take the call,” he said.
“We’re asking for your help – it’s about improving safety on our roads. You really don’t lose much time pulling over, and if you can’t do that, allow the call to go to message bank.
“There is no excuse for using a mobile phone while you are in charge of a vehicle.”
Sen Sgt Broadbent said police would run more and more operations to weed out poor driving behaviour.
“Driver distraction is driving our serious injury crashes – the evidence is quite clear,” he said.
“When you look at a crash – whether it’s a non-injury, serious injury or a
fatality – it can sometimes be a matter of millimetres that can change the whole outcome.”
Sen Sgt Broadbent urged drivers to be more attentive during the festive season, when people were more likely to feel stressed.
“The time to stay focused and ensure you’re aware while in charge of a vehicle is pretty much any time you get behind the wheel, but more so at this time,” he said.
“People always think it won’t happen to them, but they need to understand it can happen if you’re not focused on what you’re doing.”
A Transport Accident Commission study of the behaviour and attitudes of 92 country drivers with poor driving histories found one of the most common reasons participants used their phones while driving was to not miss a call.
Penalties for drivers caught using mobile phones increased last month, from $289 to $433.