Those failing to wear a seatbelt are also being caught by mobile cameras.

More than one-third of UK police forces are regularly using mobile speed camera vans to catch drivers using handheld mobile phones or failing to wear a seatbelt.

A freedom of information request from IAM RoadSmart found that 16 of the country’s 44 police forces use evidence from van cameras to prosecute drivers for other offences ‘as a matter of routine’.

A further four forces said they ‘occasionally’ use the vans’ cameras as evidence for other offences.

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The 16 forces that regularly use mobile speed cameras to catch motorists committing other offences said they had recorded more than 8,000 drivers not wearing a seatbelt in 2016. Over the same period, the cameras also caught out around 1,000 drivers using a mobile phone.

Despite this, IAM RoadSmart says some police forces ‘had reservations about using safety cameras or camera vans to record non-speeding offences’ because of concerns about issues such as image quality.

Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart’s CEO, said: ‘Drivers should be reassured that the police are using all the tools in their road safety toolkit to address their top worries. For too many drivers it is only the fear of being caught that will stop them putting themselves and others at risk from smartphone distraction. If drivers don’t know about this added enforcement technique then its impact will be reduced so the police should have no hesitation in publicising its use.’

However, Sillars admitted that drivers deserve to know what the mobile cameras are used for and how the images will be used as evidence.

‘Our research shows that the use of mobile safety camera vans to pursue phone users and seatbelt offenders varies from one force to another,’ she said. ‘What we need are clear and consistent guidelines on what the cameras are being used for, what training staff are being given and how the images are being used as evidence.’