The Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has given £10,000 of Proceeds of Crime Act funding to a new driving simulator to boost road safety.
It is hoped the state-of-the-art software will help cut road deaths by showing the dangers of using a mobile phone behind the wheel.
Simulator test drivers sit in a prototype Land Rover − configured to three large TV screens − and can take on a series of scenarios designed to replicate what it’s like to drive while drunk, tired or distracted by using a handset.
Officers from the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) plan to take the system to events across the region, plus colleges and universities in a bid to reach inexperienced drivers who are statistically more likely to be involved in serious crashes.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson – who brought in the ban on driving while using a mobile phone during his time as Transport Minister – said: “Driving while talking on a handheld mobile phone is one of the most dangerous things a motorist can do − that’s why I introduced the ban during my time as Transport Minister in 2004.
“Road safety is such an important issue to me and I thoroughly endorse this crackdown by West Midlands Police and the Central Motorway Police Group.
“There is no excuse for driving while talking on a mobile phone, you put yourself and those around you in danger and the simple message is: don’t do it.”
Today (May 23), sees the launch of a national roads policing campaign raising awareness of distracted driving and clamping down on illegal use of phones behind the wheel.
During the week-long campaign, police will use both marked and unmarked vehicles to catch motorists using mobiles to make calls, text or browse the internet; offenders will be given the chance to attend an educational course as an alternative to prosecution.
Between 2013 and 2015, a total of 7,713 drivers in the West Midlands were prosecuted for driving while using a mobile phone.
Inspector Sion Hathaway from CMPG said: “The simulator is a great bit of kit and a fantastic example of partnership working: the car was donated by Land Rover, Wolverhampton University made the TV stands, and local companies contributed to software and signage.
“The Police & Crime Commissioner’s Office donated £10,000 − using money seized from crooks under the Proceeds of Crime Act − so there is no cost to the public purse.
“The simulator is fun to try out but it gets across a very serious message about the dangers of driving when your full attention is not on the road.
“The number of people being killed or injured as a result using a phone while driving continues to rise…it’s one of the biggest killers on our roads.”
Studies have found driver reaction times when using a mobile phone are 30 per cent slower than someone who is just above the drink drive limit and 50 per cent slower than normal driving conditions.
Drivers using mobile phones are also four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
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