East Anglian drivers ignore safety laws

Victoria Leggett Thousands of drivers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are putting theirs and others' lives at risk by ignoring basic safety laws.

Victoria Leggett

Thousands of drivers across the region are putting their lives and those of others at risk by ignoring basic safety laws.

Police are angry that some people will never get the message, as they continue to drive while chatting on the phone or without a seat belt.

More than 25 years after driving without a seat belt became illegal, an average 10,000 people a year are still being caught in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire without having clunk-clicked.

Since April 2006, nearly 35,800 drivers have been given fixed-penalty notices for the offence. Some 1,285 have been handed out in Norfolk already in 2009-10.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also show that, over the past three-and-a-half years, 839 people have been found to be putting children at risk by not ensuring they are properly restrained in vehicles.

Most Read

Another 5,000 drivers have been travelling in potentially unsafe vehicles by not obtaining a valid MoT certificate.

One of the newest pieces of legislation - the curb on using a mobile while driving - is also being ignored by some motorists.

The number of people fined in Norfolk rose in 2008 compared with the previous two years.

But Norfolk police's casualty reduction officer, PC Michael Edney, pictured left, said the figures - which varied considerably across the counties - simply reflected crackdowns by the different constabularies.

He added: "I don't want to talk about penalties: it's about driver and passenger safety. By not wearing a seatbelt, the likelihood of death or serious injury is increased so much it's untrue."

In Norfolk, the police work with organisations including the county council and fire and rescue service under the brand, Think! Norfolk, to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

Even so, PC Edney fears there will always be people who ignore their efforts.

He said: "We go out there and try and try and try to get these people to listen to the message.

"It's bizarre. We'll ask: 'Why haven't you put your seat belt on?' and they'll say: 'It creases my shirt.'

"There's always going to be a hard core of people who disregard the messages because they know better."

Nationally, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) has urged drivers and passengers to start taking more responsibility and consider the potential consequences.

Jo Stagg, of the organisation, said: "It's disappointing to hear so many people are still not heeding the safety advice."

But Rospa hopes things will improve eventually, particularly as regards the relatively new mobile phone laws. Miss Stagg said the number of people wearing seat belts had risen from 40pc to 94pc since that rule became law in 1983 and hoped there would be a similar result with mobile phone use once the law had "bedded in".