Police hope ‘week of action’ will make drivers think twice about using their mobile phones.
During a week long campaign in January, a total of 133 motorists were apprehended for using their mobile phones whilst driving – 72 of those were in County Durham and Darlington, with 61 in the Cleveland area.
The week of action, carried by the CDSOU (Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit) supported national activity co-ordinated by the NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council.
At present the offence carries a £100 fine and three penalty points. If the case goes to court the offender can also be disqualified from driving or riding, and get a maximum fine of £1,000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500.
However, in March the penalties will increase to six points and a £200 fine. This could have a huge effect on new drivers in their probationary period, as their licence will be revoked if they receive six penalty points.
Research has found that being distracted by a phone while driving, regardless of whether it is being used to make calls, messages or going online can make a driver up to 25 times more likely to be involved in a collision.
Inspector Harry Simpson from the CDSOU, said: “We use both marked and unmarked cars during our operations and all are equipped with on-board cameras to record any offences.
“While I believe the vast majority of drivers on our roads are behaving sensibly, we still caught 133 drivers who were putting themselves and others at serious risk. These people will now have to deal with the consequences of their actions.”
Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington said “these results should really demonstrate that the Constabulary is serious about apprehending people who use their mobile phones whilst driving. The new penalties are a further deterrent and I call on Government, and our local partners, to reinforce the message that using a mobile phone whilst driving isa danger to everyone on the roads.”
The initiative was in support of a national awareness campaign and backed up by various messages on police social media accounts.