POLICE Scotland today announced a “significant increase” in the number of drivers caught breaking the law, which has topped 103,000 in the six months since it was formed.
The new national force clocked 52,171 speeders between April and September, up 39 per cent on the same period last year.
These are in addition to drivers caught by speed cameras, which total around 50,000.
A further 25,451 people were caught not wearing seatbelts - up 37 per cent - while 20,440 drivers were caught using mobile phones (up 21 per cent) and 5,226 for driving licence offences (up 30 per cent).
The figures have increased because of a new approach to policing following the merger of the country’s eight forces.
The creation of a single force has enabled Superintendent Iain Murray, its head of road policing, to deploy his 687 officers in vehicles from across the country to where they are most needed.
This has included a major increase in patrols of the A9 between Perth and Inverness by drafting in police motorcycles from Edinburgh and Glasgow for the first time.
Supt Murray has warned drivers: “We will have the maximum influence by moving vehicles around to keep you guessing.”
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, who announced the figures at a road safety conference near Edinburgh, said road safety was among people’s greatest concerns.
He said: “We have listened to that in shaping our policing response. We are now continuing to build our dedicated trunk roads patrol group across the country, matching specialist resource to the right place at the right time.
“Our focus is on enforcement, and by providing a more visible, dedicated resource across our national and local roads networks, we can help deter and detect poor driver behaviour.”
Mr House said last year’s road death total of 174 - three times Scotland’s homicide rate - was “simply unacceptable”.
He said: “There is a common perception amongst offenders that offences are committed by others, but not by themselves.
“Our job is to challenge these perceptions and make people aware that offending behaviour will be dealt with.”
Motoring groups welcomed the increased figures as being likely to help deter dangerous driving.
Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “We have been calling for high-profile enforcement for years and now we seem to finally have a police force that is actually doing it.
“This must be good news for road safety as research does suggest that fear of being caught is a bigger deterrent than higher penalties.”
Philip Gomm, of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, said: “This doesn’t necessarily suggest more drivers are committing crimes, only that more are being detected.
“These figures could actually lead to big drops in offences in the future as those people tempted to break the rules recognise they are increasingly likely to be caught.”
Automobile Association president Edmund King said: “I am astonished that 25,451 people are putting there own lives at risk by not belting up.
“It is encouraging to see active police enforcement of these offences but disappointing that some 20,440 odd drivers are still addicted to their mobile phones.”