Plymouth CityBus being used by police to catch drivers using their phones

  • Watch Cari Davies' report

Police in Plymouth have taken over a pedestrian CityBus in an attempt to catch unsuspecting drivers using their mobile phones.

So far, more than 30 drivers in Plymouth have received fines after police conducted a two-day road safety operation.

The loaned CityBus was only used during the second day of the operation, where police used it to look into drivers' windows.

Offences included things like drivers using mobile phones, having no insurance or MOTs and driving without a seatbelt.

The officers gave out 12 fixed penalty notices on the first day of the operation, where police were on board the Torpoint Ferry and patrol towers either side.

One vehicle was searched under misuse of drugs laws and one person was arrested for possession of an imitation firearm.

The second day - where the CityBus was used to patrol the roads - resulted in 20 fixed penalty tickets being issued, 17 of which were for using a mobile phone while driving.

The rationale behind using a CityBus to catch people texting whilst driving is to give police a low profile, whilst also providing a high vantage point to see through drivers windows.

It is hoped the inconspicuous nature of a pedestrian City bus will allow police to catch more phone users whilst they are driving.

Devon and Cornwall police have trialled the new means of police transport during rush hours in the city.

It comes ahead of a law change next month - from March 25 it will illegal to use almost any hand-held use devices whilst driving.

This means anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.

According to Sargent Owen Messenger of Devon and Cornwall Police's Road Casualty Reduction Team, "28000 people are killed or seriously injured on UK roads."

The CityBus operation is part of an aim to stop all fatal and serious collisions by in Devon and Cornwall by 2040. Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

It is already illegal to text or make a phone call - other than in an emergency - using a hand-held device while driving, but the new law will also ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games.

Road Casualty Reduction Officer MPC Charlie Oliver said: "Distracted driving is one of the ‘Fatal Five’ causes of many serious and fatal collisions.

"You may think that checking a quick message or scrolling through a music playlist on your phone is harmless, but it only takes a split second of distraction to cause a major collision which could harm you, your passengers and others on the road."

How does the CityBus operation work?

It's in slow moving traffic that people seem to reach for their phones the most. 

Once officers in the bus spot a mobile phone being used, either they tip off a nearby unmarked police car or they pull the offender over themselves to give them a ticket.

One officer told ITV News West Country: "You get people that are eating with one hand and texting with the other and driving with their knees. I've had somebody using two phones. "You can go right up to them in a fully marked police car and they wont see you, which just demonstrates how much that distraction is on the road."

Chief Inspector Jason Shears, Roads Policing Lead for Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Driving whilst distracted is every bit as unacceptable as drink driving and just as likely to be fatal.

"Research has shown that drivers using a phone – handheld or hands free – are four times more likely to be involved in a collision."

Research published by the department for transport says around one in four motorists admitted to using a phone in their had while driving at least once in the last 12 months.