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More people than ever are talking on their mobiles while driving, which is strange as the police have been handing out fewer and fewer fines over the last few years.

The number of fines handed out has been dropped steadily over the last few years, despite the fact that roadside surveys claim that more people than ever are driving with a phone clamped to their face - but that should change now that camera operators are allowed to enforce the law to the gain of the Department for Transport.

116,000 fines were handed out during the 2008/9 period, down 30 per cent compared to 2006/7, which is pretty poor when the Department for Transport reckons there's been a 27 per cent increase in the number of people spotted using a mobile phone. Which demonstrates either that the police are incompetent, or that the public has stopped caring about people who want to talk on the phone but don't want to wake the children.

That was the explanation given by Ed Balls, who got a £60 fine and three points for talking when he should have been focusing on the road. But Balls got spotted by a police officer, who often have more important things to do than interrupting MPs' phone calls.

Which is why since September "Local Safety Camera Partnerships" have been empowered to take snaps of drivers on the phone just as they do speeding cars. The partnerships don't get the revenue directly any more - that goes to the Department - but we're confident that next year's figures will show an awful lot more people fined for driving and talking: perhaps even another MP or two. ®

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