Drivers Targeted In Mobile Crackdown

Police are beginning a week-long crackdown on drivers who ignore the law and use their mobile phones in their vehicles.

Officers throughout the Cleveland and Durham force areas are on the lookout for offenders as part of a national campaign.

Inspector Harry Simpson, of Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, revealed that unmarked police cars will be employed as part of the strategy.

A total of 720 drivers were caught using their mobile phones in the two counties during 2016. Another 67 drivers on the area’s roads were found not to have been in proper control or with a full view of the road ahead of them.

This can include being distracted by animals or children or driving while eating or drinking, adjusting a music player or arguing with passengers.

Inspector Simpson warned drivers not to take the risk of using their phone or allowing themselves to be distracted in any other way, insisting everyone should be fully aware of the law.

“We will have a number of officers dedicated to this campaign across the week, using unmarked as well as marked police cars,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

The penalty for both offences, which come under the Road Traffic Act 1988, will double in March. Currently, offenders are subject to a £100 fine and can receive three penalty points on their driving licence.

However, if the prosecution ends up in court the maximum fine rises to £1,000, while bus or goods vehicle drivers can be told to pay up to £2,500.

The basic fine will go up to £200 and six penalty points. Thus could be disastrous for drivers who have recently passed their test and are still in their two-year probationary period, as it will lead to their licence being revoked.

Researchers estimate that drivers who are using their mobile phone to make calls, send texts or go online increase their chances of being involved in an accident by around 25 times.

As well as targeting drivers who flout the law, campaigners are also emphasising the risks cyclists and pedestrians take if they become distracted on the road.

They say cyclists ride more erratically, are less aware and often fail to notice signs when they are using their phones or music players.

Pedestrians can walk more slowly, pay less attention to traffic and have an increased chance of stepping into the path of approaching vehicles.

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