Top traffic officer for Norfolk and Suffolk warns drivers using mobile phones, as he leaves force after 30 years

Chief Inspector Chris Spinks who is retiring as head of roads policing for Norfolk and Suffolk. Pict

Chief Inspector Chris Spinks who is retiring as head of roads policing for Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

They are the officers who knock on doors of family homes and deliver the most devastating news.

Chris Spinks, right, with his father, Ray Spinks who joined the police in 1958. Picture: SUBMITTED

Chris Spinks, right, with his father, Ray Spinks who joined the police in 1958. Picture: SUBMITTED

With a Christmas tree lovingly decorated and presents wrapped at its base, telling young children their father has died in a crash the night before is heartbreaking.

Yet for Chief Inspector Chris Spinks, head of Norfolk and Suffolk's road policing unit, and his team, it is what they have to do.

Thirty years ago today, aged 19, he joined Norfolk police as a third generation officer with a passion to do good work in his community.

In the decades since, he has policed the most horrific road accidents, led tense firearms operations and been the public face in campaigning to lower crash statistics across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Chief Inspector Chris Spinks in 1989 when he was based at Wymondham Police Station. Picture: SUBMITT

Chief Inspector Chris Spinks in 1989 when he was based at Wymondham Police Station. Picture: SUBMITTED

Now, in his final interview before he hangs up his uniform, the father of two has warned of the growing problem facing the region's roads – mobile phone use at the wheel.

He wants it to become as socially unacceptable as being drunk while driving and says efforts must continue to stamp out the problem.

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From January 1 to October 31 this year, 708 people were caught over the legal drink-drive limit in Norfolk, while 1,828 were found using their phone.

'These figures illustrate that it [using mobile phones] is a growing threat to safety and that there is a real need for use of these mobile devices to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving,' Chief Insp Spinks said.

'There is no call or message worth risking the lives of others and yourself for. Just put the phone away, don't turn it off as you might need it in an emergency, but put it out of sight.'

As the EDP carries on with its Name and Shame campaign for drink-drivers over the Christmas period, he said phones were also a problem.

'We know there are more people on their phones than drink-driving, and my gut feeling is that people would be more inclined to use their phone and think it's OK.'

During his time with the force, Chief Insp Spinks has worked across the county in uniform roles as well as spearheading the Norfolk and Suffolk roads policing unit, now being used as a blueprint for cross-border working across the UK.

The proudest moment in his career, he says, was seeing the impact of the harrowing video from the headcam of Norwich motorcyclist David Holmes who was killed on the A47.

His mother, Brenda, bravely shared the video, called David's Story, to help get the road safety message out there. For Chief Insp Spinks, it can be frustrating not knowing who would and wouldn't be safe if it wasn't for his team of 109 men and women's work.

'People on the roads are still our community and we are there to protect them from harm as much as a neighbourhood bobby would,' he said.

'All I can do is to go home at night and think we have all done our best.'

Chief Insp Spinks will be going to work at Westcotec, a Dereham-based road sign specialist, where he hopes his experience working in serious issues on the roads will transfer.

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