Officers from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit (CDSOU) issued a total of 46 fixed penalty notices for mobile phone use while driving, in a campaign which started on Wednesday 1st March. The week of action coincided with new legislation that sees anyone caught using their mobile phone at the wheel issued with a £200 fine and six penalty 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.

Of those caught, 23 were driving in the Cleveland Police area and 23 in County Durham and Darlington and three people were summonsed to court. The number is down from when a similar week of action took place in January where 131 drivers were caught (61 in Cleveland and 72 in Durham) and two drivers summonsed to court.

However, road policing chiefs say the relatively low figures suggest most motorists are taking on board the repeated warnings regarding the dangers of mobile phone use.

Inspector Harry Simpson from 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 49 drivers who were putting themselves and others at serious risk. These people will now have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

“There are clearly some people who feel the law doesn’t apply to them. Even though our week of action is over they will discover our officers are making this offence a priority and that we have a zero-tolerance approach.”

 The initiative was in support of a national awareness campaign and backed up by various messages on police social media accounts.

Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg, recently welcomed the new penalties for drivers who use a mobile phone whilst driving.

He said: “I am pleased to see the results of this campaign, and that the number of people flouting the law has reduced. That being said, there are still those who persist on using their phones when it is clearly illegal to do so. I urge drivers to be sensible before they cause unnecessary injury, or death, on our roads.”