The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) says that press reports at the weekend claiming that officers had been instructed to seize mobile phones at all road traffic collisions are incorrect.
It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone at the wheel, but the law is widely ignored, despite calls from road safety organisations for police to step up enforcement.
Gloucestershire Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, who is responsible for roads policing at ACPO, was widely reported at the weekend to have told officers to take possession of mobile phones after a crash.
But in a statement published on the ACPO website, she said: “At no point have I issued guidance to officers to seize mobile phones from drivers at the site of every road traffic collision.
“It is fair to say that we as a service are looking at ways of making officers and drivers more aware of the difference between the offences of driving while not in proper control of the vehicle - which is a distraction offence - and driving while using a mobile phone.
“Part of this process involves making sure officers know the best means of using information within a driver’s mobile phone when building evidence for a successful prosecution, such as finding from call or text logs if the phone was in use at the time of an incident.
Currently, mobile phones are seized in incidents where someone has been killed or injured, and Chief Constable Davenport confirmed that would not change.
“It has been standard practice to seize mobile phones from drivers at the scenes of very serious collisions for some time as part of the information and evidence gathering process, but it is not now, nor will it be, standard practice to seize phones from drivers after every collision,” she said.
“Drivers must continue to be aware not only of the risks posed by being distracted by mobile phones while in control of a car, but the serious penalties which they will face if they are caught. We are unequivocal in our determination to keep all road users safe.”
Earlier this month, Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said that the government was seriously considering a suggestion from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to double the number of penalty points for using a hands-free mobile phone while driving from three to six.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.