POLICE are launching a week-long crackdown on motorists who use mobile phones while they drive.
Officers from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit will be carrying out the operation from Sunday.
The aim is to educate drivers and robustly enforce the law in support of a national campaign co-ordinated by ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The activity by the road policing crews will be backed by a series of casualty reduction messages across both forces’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
Last year, a total of 891 drivers across the two areas were issued with fixed penalty tickets for using a mobile phone at the wheel.
A further 51 tickets were issued to drivers classed as not being in proper control of their vehicle – for example, consuming food or applying make-up while driving.
Those who are caught receive a £100 fine and have their licence endorsed with three penalty points.
If the case goes to court, the offender can also be disqualified from driving or riding, and get a maximum fine of £1,000.
Drivers of buses or goods vehicles face a maximum fine of £2,500.
Figures compiled by the Department of Transport from police accident records suggest that between 2007 and 2012 – the latest timeframe available – there were at least 480 crashes nationally which resulted in fatalities, or people receiving serious or life-changing injuries.
Chief Inspector Alison Jackson said: “Driving any vehicle requires and deserves your full attention.
“To do anything else puts your life, the lives of any passengers and other road users, at risk.
“You could become involved in a serious or even fatal collision as a result of your poor judgment.
“Over the next week our officers will be making this offence a priority, and will stop anyone they see either using a mobile phone, or for some other reason not having full control of their driving.”