HAMPSHIRE police are launching a new campaign to cut the number of crashes caused by drivers using their mobile phone at the wheel.

Officers in the county will be among the first in the UK to use a new detector which can tell when people are holding their phones while driving.

The equipment pinpoints how many motorists on a particular stretch of road are not using a hands-free device, enabling police to target hotspots.

It comes after several fatal incidents involving drivers who were using their phone at the time of the collision or just beforehand.

In 2016 a lorry driver who caused an accident in which two men were killed on the M271 in Southampton was jailed for six years.

Hampshire Chronicle:

The city’s crown court heard that Keith Mees, 49, of Newall, Derbyshire, ploughed into stationary traffic after using his mobile to access Facebook.

A car containing Marian Olteanu, 35, and Ion Calin, 42, both from Southampton, was crushed between two HGVs in the resulting collision. A third person was seriously hurt.

Mees admitted two offences of causing death by dangerous driving and one of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Judge Nicholas Rowland told him: “You were distracted for 20 seconds when you should have been paying attention to the road. You touched the screen four seconds before the collision.”

Hampshire Chronicle:

Earlier this year another lorry driver was jailed for causing a similar crash on the M3 near Winchester.

Two elderly friends from Buckinghamshire and Dorset were killed when their Audi Q3 was hit from behind by a fully-laden lorry travelling at more than 50mph.

HGV driver John Rogers, 65, of Glamorgan, Wales, was jailed for four-and-a-half-years at Winchester Crown Court after he admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

The new detection equipment will be used by police in Hampshire and the neighbouring Thames Valley force and is already monitoring the A34 in Oxfordshire.

Police say the roadside device can tell when a driver is using his or her mobile phone without Bluetooth.

As well as pinpointing the number of offenders it also flashes a mobile phone symbol at each culprit’s car in a bid to persuade them to obey the law.

People caught using their mobile phone at the wheel can be banned from driving and fined up to £1,000.

PC Liz Johnson said: “Research shows you’re four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving.”

On Monday,  a week of enforcement and education activity will start across the two policing areas.

The campaign, which will run until April 21, is part of the National Police Chief’s Council campaign.