A police campaign to catch drivers who break the law by using mobiles at the wheel was today welcomed by road safety charity Brake.
Almost 8,000 motorists were caught using a mobile phone while driving last year.
Officers from the Cleveland and Durham specialist operations unit are supporting a national clampdown co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council from today.
The move comes ahead of plans, announced last year, by the Department of Transport, to double the punishment for using a mobile phone while driving.
The charity says the use of mobiles is a growing menace, especially as devices become more sophisticated.
A recent survey by Brake and insurer Direct Line revealed around half of drivers aged between 25 and 34 are taking huge risks by texting, using apps or going online on their mobiles when they are at the wheel.
More than half (55%) of 25-34-year-old drivers questioned admitted they had sent or read a text message on their mobile while behind the wheel of their car in the last year.
Despite it being illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone at all while driving, more than four in 10 (42%) revealed they send or read messages at least once a week.
One in five young drivers (18-24) confirmed they regularly text and/or instant message when they are behind the wheel.
Just under half of drivers (49%) aged 25-34 admitted they sometimes go online or use apps (other than sat nav apps) while driving.
Almost a third of drivers in that age group said they do it several times a week at least.
Brake says drivers who divide their attention between their phone and the road are significantly increasing their risk of causing a devastating crash.
One large-scale study found texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash than a driver paying full attention.
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “We welcome this crackdown by police forces.
"The law needs to be much tougher with this type of offence, which appears to be growing in numbers.
"Younger drivers, especially those aged between 25 and 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.
"Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing.
"These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk.
"If a phone has to be used as a sat nav, it must be programmed before setting off on the journey and properly secured.
"There is no other acceptable way to use a phone while driving.”