Police are warning motorists of a “zero tolerance approach” as the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving were cranked up today.
As from Wednesday (March 1), new legislation means drivers caught using their mobiles will now be subject to a £200 fine and six points on their licence.
The new legislation could have a huge effect on new drivers in their probationary period.
The probationary period for someone who has just passed their driving test is two years. In this time if a new driver receives six points their licence will be revoked.
Cops are also reminding motorists that death by dangerous driving carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
The warning comes as 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.
Cleveland Durham’s Specialist Operations Unit is taking part in a nationally co-ordinated week-long operation, which starts today (March 1), to enforce new penalties for using a mobile phone while driving.
The campaign, which is co-ordinated by the NPCC (National Police Chief’s Council), and is supported by THINK! Road Safety, will see targeted operations and awareness-raising of the new penalties.
This is the second week of action this year, after a week-long campaign, which began on Monday January 23, when a total of 133 motorists were apprehended for using their mobile phones whilst driving; 61 of those in Cleveland and 72 in County Durham and Darlington.
It is hoped the new legislation will deter drivers from using any kind of electronic device at the wheel which will distract them from driving.
Inspector Harry Simpson from the CDSOU, said: “Any drivers taking the risk of using a phone, or being otherwise seriously distracted while at the wheel could expect no second chances.
“We will have a number of officers dedicated to this campaign across the week, using unmarked as well as marked police cars,” said Insp Simpson.
“Over the years there have been plenty of educational campaigns so no-one can claim to be unaware this is against the law and also incredibly dangerous.
“Despite this education and media interest over 130 people were caught using their mobile phones last month in a week long campaign.
“There are clearly some people who feel the law doesn’t apply to them. But over the next week they will discover our officers are making this offence a priority and that we have a zero-tolerance approach.
“It is one of the most common complaints we receive. To remove the temptation to check your phone whilst driving turn it on silent and put it in the glovebox. Out of sight and out of mind.
“Using a phone whilst driving could cost you your licence. Using a phone whilst driving and injuring or killing someone will cost your freedom as well as your licence.
“Death by dangerous driving carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. When you are released you will still have to live with yourself.”