Hundreds of drivers nabbed over cell phone ban infractions

Traffic cops have warned the safety message on not using cell phones while driving is not getting through to people. 

More than 400 motorists have been stopped for the offence since it was introduced in September 2012. 

Police say they were relatively lenient when the ban was first introduced, opting instead for an intensive public-information campaign over immediate, strict enforcement. 

Now, authorities have clamped down on drivers who make calls and texts at the wheel as part of the “Street Skill” campaign, which began in February.  

First-quarter crime statistics released last month by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service show 242 people were stopped and fined for using their phones while driving during the first three months of the year. The bulk of those came in March, with 145 tickets doled out.  

The fine for flouting the law is $150. Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton accepted that the penalty had not proved a significant deterrent, so far. But he believes education is the key to solving the issue. 

He said: “For whatever reason, people continue to disregard the law despite it being a concern for road safety. We have done everything possible to get the message across about the illegality through educating the public through various media houses. Evidently, infraction of the law continues and our officers will continue to enforce it.  

“However, we really want the public to treat this as a road safety issue and we embarked on another prevention campaign by handing out flyers just last week.” 

In the early weeks of the ban, police focused on public relations. Only 11 people were stopped for driving and using their phones last September. 

Since then, the number has increased to around 50 each month, aside from a spike in tickets in March. 

Mr. Walton said: “I don’t believe there is any one specific reason for the hike in March, compared to the other months.  

“It’s simply a matter of focused enforcement of this legislation. The RCIPS has taken a proactive approach to emphasise road safety in this regard, which has been made clear to our officers.” 

He said drivers should be aware that they put themselves and others in jeopardy if they took a call or sent a text while at the wheel. 

“It is a danger in the sense that it impacts on your reaction. It’s a distraction because your focus is about a conversation with someone on the other end of the phone and not fully focused on the road and safety of other motorists.” 

The overall first quarter crime statistics, released by police for January, February and March of this year, show some variation on the same period in 2012. 

Total crimes are down about 25 per cent from 707 reported over the first three months of 2012 compared with 519 for this year. This can largely be explained by a large decline in theft offences, which went down by almost 50 per cent. 

Mr. Walton believes the fact that the police dealt with a spate of serious crimes during the first few months of last year, may also be a factor. 

“It cannot go unnoticed that this time last year we were really being challenged with a series of armed robberies, which had a significant Cayman community impact.  

“We needed to tackle these armed robberies as a priority and we did. I am convinced that is why we have seen a reduction in that specific level of criminality thus far this year.”  

Despite that impact, serious crimes – a category that includes murder, rape, robbery and burglary – went up by 7 per cent from 156 incidents reported to 167. Burglaries jumped 25 per cent from 98 in 2012 to 123 this year. 

Mr. Walton acknowledged: “If you look at the statistics, the obvious sore thumb for us at the moment is burglary.  

“It’s the one crime that continues to present its challenges, but we will remain vigilant in the way we address it both proactively and through our investigative capabilities.  

“So far this year we have made over 40 arrests for burglary, with many of those arrests leading to charges before the court.  

“The RCIPS continues to strive towards excellence and portraying a professional image. We are doing our very best to ensure that the Cayman Islands continue to remain one of the safest places to live and visit.” 

The number of people ticketed for driving while using a cell phone since the ban was introduced 

 

2012 

 

September 11 

October 50 

November 60 

December 65 

 

2013 

 

January 52 

February 45 

March 145 

cell phone drive

Using your phone at the wheel is distracting and dangerous, say police. – PHOTO: FILE
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