AN AWARENESS campaign to educate motorists about the dangers of using a handheld mobile phone while driving is being launched by Kent Police and Kent Highway Services.
From Monday (21 January), posters, leaflets and newspaper and cinema advertising will remind motorists that it is illegal to use handheld mobile phones while driving, and the county's police force will be extra vigilant about catching perpetrators.
Tougher penalties were introduced last February for people caught receiving or making calls, texts and pictures or accessing the internet on handsets while driving, even when stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
Drivers who use phones illegally now receive a £60 fine and three penalty points on their licence. Between March 1 and December 31 2007, Kent Police issued 3,399 fixed penalty notices.
Inspector Geoff Wood, of Kent Police roads policing unit, said: "Police officers always look for illegal mobile phone use while on regular patrol, but the next two weeks will see additional enforcement action across the county."
Research shows people using a hand-held mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to have a crash and have a slower reaction time.
One test concluded that a motorist using a handheld mobile phone while driving at 70mph travels an additional 45 metres before reacting to a hazard compared with someone not on a mobile phone.
Inspector Wood added: "Those extra 45 metres could mean the difference between life and death. The evidence that concentration levels and therefore driving ability suffers is plain to see.
"Too many people continue to use the phone illegally when they drive and it is these people we need to target. The safety of the public using the roads either as other drivers, passengers or pedestrians is far more important than any phone call."