Motorists who use their mobile phone while behind the wheel face a new crackdown from today.
A change in the law means anyone caught using their phone while on the roads now faces an on-the-spot £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence.
And if someone is caught twice, accruing 12 points in the process, they will automatically appear in court and face a fine of £1,000 and a driving ban of at least six months.
Northumbria Police Motor Patrols Chief Inspector Dave Guthrie, of the Operations Department, hopes the new legislation will act as a deterrent to drivers.
He said: “This change in legislation underlines how seriously the authorities are taking driving while using your mobile phone and we are firmly supportive of the change.
“We have all seen examples in the press of the devastation that can be caused when a driver is not concentrating on the road.
“A motor vehicle in the wrong hands won’t just kill one person, it could kill half a dozen in a split second. That is why it is so important for people to heed our advice.
“Young drivers in particular think they can get away with playing on their phone but all it takes is for them to not concentrate for a split second and they can be involved in a collision.
“We have one simple message for motorists – don’t be that person who is responsible for claiming an innocent life for the sake of a text message.”
Back in November, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) held a proactive campaign and more than 10,000 motorists were stopped across the UK.
Almost 8,000 mobile phone offences were detected and were positively dealt with by means of fixed penalties, summonses or warnings.
In the Northumbria POlice force area, just under 500 mobile phone offences were detected in 2016. In terms of the number of accidents involving distracted drivers, there were a total of 773 collisions between 2011 and 2015 with 55 people killed or seriously injured.
The new powers have also been welcomed by Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, who has long campaigned for tougher penalties for mobile phone use.
He said: “These new penalties are a real deterrent to dangerous driving. But an even greater deterrent should be the knowledge that being distracted by a phone could result in an accident, serious injury to the driver and others, and even death. The phone call will wait. But if you kill someone, that is not something you can undo.”
In one week in January, a total of 72 motorists were apprehended for using their mobile phones whilst driving in the Durham Constabulary area.
Mr Hogg added: “Action by the force in January really demonstrated that the Constabulary is serious about apprehending people who use their mobile phones whilst driving, and these new penalties provide an extra incentive for drivers to ignore the distraction of a phone call.”