DRIVERS continue to put themselves and others at risk with ‘dangerous behaviour’ behind the wheel.

Today the Echo can reveal a gallery of motorists snapped flouting the law or increasing their chances of a serious accident.

Using mobile phones, eating, drinking, reading and even applying make-up – despite knowing there is No Excuse, motorists are still doing it.

They have been urged to remember that ‘it’s not worth the cost of a life’.

Drivers have long been warned by safety campaigners that distracted behaviour leaves concentration flagging and heightens the risk of a crash.

More than 10,000 have been caught on their mobiles by officers in the last four years.

But these photos – one showing a woman reading at the wheel on a 50mph stretch of road whilst a child sits in the passenger seat – suggest that drivers still aren’t listening. And in a rural area like West Dorset, it’s especially important to concentrate on the road – there are almost twice as many accidents on rural roads than in towns.

The Dorset Road Safety Partnership is due to begin a major crackdown on mobile phone use whilst driving and other distracting behaviours in the coming months.

It says that since it began campaigning against mobile phone use behind the wheel, the number of people committing the offence has ‘only changed marginally’.

No Excuse project manager Brian Austin, who took a look at these photos, told the Echo: “These are clear examples of drivers being distracted whilst on the road.

“The problem we have is the perception of the public who think it’s just mobile phones – it’s not.

“It’s any sort of behaviour that creates a distraction.

“We had one person who was stopped inputting data into their diet app on their phone.

“But because the phone wasn’t up to their ear, they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.

“The risk is that the driver is not fully in control of the vehicle whilst they are doing it.

“If a child ran out in front of them and they’re sitting with a sandwich in their hands – which I have seen – they won’t have time to react.

“And when you have a mobile phone conversation, not only do you have a hand off the steering wheel – but where is your brain?

“Is your brain concentrating on the road, or on the conversation you are having?”

He said the challenge for the Road Safe Partnership is making drivers understand the types of behaviour that are unacceptable.

“People don’t understand the concept properly,” he said.

“We’ve had someone listening to the cricket scores, but because he wasn’t actually having a conversation with someone, he thought he wasn’t committing an offence.

“Driving with your concentration on the road is particularly important in a rural area. If you’re driving on a road with lots of turns and bends, how do you know what’s around the corner?

“You could be distracted and turn a bend and there are sheep or horses in the road.”

In October, the Echo revealed that drivers in Dorset are more likely to have points on their licence than almost anywhere else in the country.

Drivers with a DT postcode came ninth in a UK-wide list.

Driver reaction times have been found to be 30 per cent slower whilst using a hands free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrammes in 100 millitres of blood and nearly 50 percent slower than driving under normal conditions.

Reading and writing at the wheel is even more distracting as it takes your mind, hands and eyes off the road.

And texting drivers have 35 percent slower reaction times and poor lane control.

• IT IS an offence to use a mobile phone when you are behind the wheel with the engine running to: • Make or receive a call • Send or receive text messages • Access the internet The penalty for any of these offences is three points on your driving licence and a possible fine of up to £100.

If your case goes to court, you could be disqualified as well as have to pay a fine of up to £1,000.

It is not an offence in itself to eat, drink or smoke whilst driving but there is a potential punishment for driving without due care and attention.

This is defined as driving that falls below the expected standard of a competent driver or driving that does not show reasonable consideration for other people using the road or pathways.

Since August last year police have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to careless drivers.

• Warning over ‘multi-tasking’ Ed Morrow, campaigns officer at road safety charity Brake said: “Driving is the most complex and dangerous task that most of us do on a regular basis, so it demands our undivided attention.

“Any multi-tasking behind the wheel, whether it’s using a mobile phone, eating or applying make-up, is a potentially deadly distraction. Drivers who talk on the phone – whether it’s handheld or hands-free – are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury.

“Using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as dangerous as using a hand-held phone, as it’s the mental distraction that creates the risk.

“At Brake, we work with many families who have lost loved ones and had their lives torn apart because someone decided to multi-task at wheel.

“We’re calling on the government to increase fines and make traffic policing a national priority to deter risky, multi-tasking drivers. We urge all drivers to save any other activities until they’re safely out of the car.”

• Car crash victim in appeal to motorists A DORCHESTER victim of a car accident has urged drivers to remember that ‘however urgent the phone call, it’s not worth the cost of a life’.

Fenella Shelton, pictured above, said that too many drivers have been snapped by the Echo demonstrating ‘dangerous behaviour’.

She added: “My injuries took me three years to recover from – but I was one of the lucky ones.

“Unfortunately, people do think they’re invincible and that an accident isn’t going to happen to them.

“You can cause an injury to yourself or someone else, or even a death.

“Anything that means you can’t put both hands on the wheel, you shouldn’t be doing – whether that’s being on the phone, putting make up on, reading, eating.

“However important you think it is, it is not worth an accident.”



Dorset Echo:

A driver appear to use a mobile phone at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

A driver eating at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Both hands off the wheel

Dorset Echo:

A motorist uses a mobile phone while driving

Dorset Echo:

A motorist uses a mobile phone while driving

Dorset Echo:

A motorist uses a mobile phone while driving

Dorset Echo:

A motorist uses a mobile phone while driving

Dorset Echo:

Fiddling with a packet whilst driving

Dorset Echo:

Drinking from a bottle

Dorset Echo:

Reading at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Eating at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Eating at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Eating at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Using a mobile phone at the wheel 

Dorset Echo:

Holding a packet of crisps at the wheel 

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Applying make-up at the wheel