Thursday 9 February 2017

Dear Cambridge Police - We Need to Talk Mobile Phones in Cars

Dear Cambridgeshire Constabulary,

Not all laws are the same - only an idiot would insist that they are. There are some legal infractions that are worth your time, and some that aren't. Technically its illegal to be drunk in a pub but you're not going to stop that. I came home from work with a pen in my pocket last week, and I didn't (yet) take it back. So technically thats theft, and I do believe I could in theory I could face up to 10 years in prison for that. But looking at my desk I can also see one of my own pens, it'll probably never wend its way back home, so I think that things balance out reasonably well. Its not a law that needs hard enforcement all of the time.

There are some laws that really are worth enforcing, and some areas of law enforcement I think need more attention from you. And some where I think you're maybe putting too much emphasis on the wrong thing.

Mobile phone use at the steering wheel is something you're not making any inroads on and I think you should try harder. You're just as aware of recent high-profile court cases revolving around this as I am, and I have no need to remind you that this is highly dangerous. But literally every day I see this over and over again - in fast moving and slow moving traffic. Your message hasn't got through. This morning I stopped counting at around a dozen, and yesterday (a day I took out my GoPro) I recorded three in close succession, and even went as far as to report them to you:

I'm not saying you should be turning up with blue flashy lights every time this happens - but if I can record dozens of these on any trip why can't you? Each one of these drivers could have had a fixed penalty notice served, by post, from back at the station. You have the legislation, you have the enforcement powers, you have the moral right, practical skills and technical ability to do so, and with almost no effort and little police time you'll be serving dozens of such notices, maybe even hundreds, every week from just devoting a couple of hours of one PC's time. Ride at rush hour, in Cambridge, in 'plain clothes', with a GoPro. 

I know you'll be thinking that this is controversial but, really, it isn't. All the other motorists in the queue of traffic looking at the car in front stuttering forward rather than moving smoothly, they all know that the driver in front isn't really paying attention. All of the law abiding motorists (the ones we really should be looking out for) want the rule breakers off the road - and I promise you, the cyclists and pedestrians will support you in this too. 

If I want to report these incidents its really time consuming and quite hard, and the level of feedback received is next to nil. I have no idea if such reports get anywhere, you relate whether or not the motorists are fined, served any notice, or prosecuted. Seems sort of thankless. But I also sort of resent the fact that its incredibly easy to record this crime but you're not doing it. Look at the response from the first and third motorists on phones in that film. I almost never say anything to motorists when I see this - I did so here because I wanted to show what the response almost always is. They're scornful of being told that they're breaking the law and continue to do so - they don't believe that this law is important enough to obey, they don't have any reason to think that what they're doing will get them into any trouble so they continue to break it. And the result is they keep doing it - and people die on our roads as a result. You are not providing a deterrent against breaking a law that is killing people - isn't it time you did?

So are you up for this? If not, I do feel you need to justify why you're letting hundreds of law breakers get away with an easily detectable crime. 


Cab Davidson (Cambridge Cyclist Blog)

1 comment:

  1. As an aside, if you didn't intend to permanently deprive your work of the pen, and "didn't (yet) take it back" suggests you didn't, technically it's not theft.

    Taking a motor vehicle without the owner's consent is a separate offense, as is taking a pedal cycle (subsection 5):