Put the phone down!
THIS image shows the stark reality of a motorist driving towards a school while holding his mobile phone.
Incredibly, the man at the wheel of the van was just one of SIX motorists photographed by the Derby Telegraph holding mobile devices as they travelled past city schools.
The van driver was in Brackens Lane, Alvaston, 50 metres from the front gates of Merrill College, and near Moorhead Primary School, as the school day ended and hundreds of youngsters spilled out on to the streets.
At the same location, in only one hour, Telegraph photographers spotted three other drivers breaking the law by holding their phones.
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The law states that it is illegal to even pick up a mobile phone whilst driving, said Chief Inspector Steve Wilson, head of road policing in Derbyshire.
At school closing time on a different day, outside St Benedict Catholic School on the busy Duffield Road, Darley Abbey, the Telegraph snapped three other drivers with phones in the space of 20 minutes.
A recent report by the RAC claimed that using a mobile phone while driving was more dangerous than drink-driving.
Ch Insp Wilson said: "These photographs appear to show people using their mobile phones, which is against the law, but even holding a phone and therefore not having proper control of a vehicle would lead to prosecution."
Holding a mobile phone at the wheel is illegal, according to a Derbyshire police chief, but the Derby Telegraph has found that the practice is still apparently rife on the county's roads.
Derbyshire Police last year dealt with more than 1,500 drivers using their mobiles behind the wheel.
Officers say the offence is one of the four major factors behind road deaths, along with speeding, drink-driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
The RAC and consumer group Which? recently said they believed using a mobile phone while driving is an even greater accident risk factor than drinking.
Chief Inspector Steve Wilson, head of road policing in Derbyshire, was shown our pictures of six motorists, snapped by the Derby Telegraph in various locations, all holding mobile phones while driving near schools in the city.
He said no prosecutions could follow our findings, due to the strict criteria of the law, but promised he would write to those involved to warn them of the dangers.
He said: "I would urge people to make their phone unavailable when they are driving, putting it out of reach so the temptation is not there."
"Using mobile phones while driving is one of the fatal four factors and there is a proven link between serious and fatal accidents when using a mobile phone.
"Using a phone means drivers are not able to stop as quickly as when they have their full attention on the road.
"It's bad enough that the drivers put themselves at risk, never mind other people and especially young children outside schools."
Parents picking up their children from school also voiced their concerns.
At Alvaston, Daniel Stevenson said: "I see so many people talking on their phones behind the wheel, even all these years after it's been made illegal.
"I think the penalty should be increased. If people are caught, they should have their licence revoked for a short period – three months, maybe – and that would be a deterrent for them."
Mr Stevenson, 44, who lives in Normanton, said: "I got caught a couple of years ago – I was an idiot – but I don't do it now. I can see how dangerous it is.
"You're putting your own life at risk and other people's, especially if you are doing it on a busy road outside a school where there are so many children around."
And Emma Brookes, whose children attend Cherry Tree Primary School in Chaddesden, said she thought it was disgusting to see drivers on their phones.
She said: "I live within walking distance and love to be able to walk my children to and from school.
"Lexington Road, where the school is, is quite a busy road and the children pour out of school in the afternoon and are very unpredictable.
"My son, George, is seven, and he uses his bike so can veer off quite easily. It is a worry for me. People need to be paying attention.
"Ellie-Mai is five and still walks with me but she does run off sometimes. You see them everywhere. It's bad enough doing it at all, never mind when there are children everywhere."
A study by Which? found texting – and using Twitter – while driving causes a 79% reduction in attention.
For three researchers, in controlled conditions, the average time taken to react to hazards when sober and not distracted was just over a second.
After drinking, their reaction time rose to 1.2 seconds, and it was fractionally higher still when speaking on a hands-free kit or handheld mobile phone. But when attempting to write a text message, the average reaction time jumped to two seconds.
Meanwhile, the RAC said its own survey of more than 1,000 motorists found that three of motorists' top five concerns were about the behaviour of other drivers, with only 22% feeling safer on the roads now than ever before.
In the RAC report 21% of motorists admitted holding a mobile phone while driving or stationary at traffic lights, with 28% of 17-to-44-year-olds admitting to this.
And 11% of motorists admitted accessing social media and e-mails while driving, rising to 19% for the 17-to-24 age group.
A further 11% of admitted accessing other websites while on the move.
RAC technical director David Bizley welcomed the Which? study.
He said it complemented RAC findings that "texting at the wheel is a significant danger which needs to be addressed by stricter enforcement and a positive public safety campaign."
Derwent Scaffolding did not want to comment on one of its staff being caught holding his phone while driving a company truck.
THE LEGAL POSITION...
SINCE December 1, 2003, it has been illegal to drive in the UK while using a hand-held mobile phone.
Before this legislation, the only way a motorist would face prosecution for using a mobile phone would be if they were charged with failing to keep control of their car while using it.
When the 2003 law first came into effect there was widespread concern it was largely being ignored, leading to debate over whether or not the £30 fixed penalty notice was enough of a deterrent.
From February 27, 2007, it doubled to a £60 on-the-spot fine, rising to up to £1,000 should the case be taken to court.
Driving while using a hand-held mobile phone became an endorsable offence, with three penalty points also being added to the offender's licence.
Hands-free kits are allowed for use in the car; drivers can push the buttons but are not allowed to hold the phone. But people driving unsafely while using a hands-free kit can still be prosecuted.
Chief Inspector Steve Wilson, of Derbyshire police, said "even holding a phone and therefore not having proper control of a vehicle would lead to prosecution".
'I couldn't believe what I was seeing': snappers tell of scary sights on roads
FOR a few days over the last couple of weeks, I went out with a photographer trying to catch people out holding their mobile phones, writes Sophie Evans.
We went to Cherry Tree Primary School in Chaddesden and Parkview School in Oakwood, where we saw nobody using phones during the morning rush.
However, later, as we were positioned at the side of the road, armed with a notepad and camera, there were people holding phones – though we could not catch them on film.
On Duffield Road, drivers sped past us, apparently going far faster than the 30mph limit, giving us no chance of catching them in the act.
Victoria Wilcox, the Telegraph's picture editor, captured all of the seven people we have shown using their phones. She said: "The speed of people travelling down the road was astounding.
"Some of the drivers spotted us on the roadside and made eye contact with us – wondering what we were doing, no doubt – but they took their eyes off the road for quite a long time, again putting people at risk.
"And when I got the picture of the van driver with his phone, I was flabbergasted. As a photographer you believe what you see on your camera but I just couldn't believe what was there."
Ian Hodgkinson, deputy picture editor, was at Cherry Tree Primary School, on Lexington Road.
He said: "We didn't get any pictures of anyone while stationed at Cherry Tree, though as we were leaving I saw one. But he saw us and dropped his phone on to his lap before I could get my camera. People are still doing it across the city, despite it being illegal."
Parents and passers-by stopped us and asked what we were doing with the big camera. When we explained, most were positive in their comments, wanting the law-breakers to be caught.