Drivers are being warned they will face tougher action if they don’t ditch their mobile while behind the wheel.
From today, police across the country will be armed with new legislation to clampdown on motorists who commit the offence.
The change in the law means the punishment has been doubled, with those in the wring receiving an on-the-spot £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence.
If a motorist 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.
The region’s forces have voiced their support for the move.
Northumbria Police and Motor Patrols Chief Inspector Dave Guthrie, of the Operations Department, has said he hopes the change in legislation will act as a further deterrent.
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.Chief Inspector Dave Guthrie
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.”
Last November the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) held a proactive campaign and more than 10,000 motorists were stopped across the UK.
Just under 500 mobile phone offences were detected in the Northumbria area in 2016 alone.
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.
Cleveland and Durham’s Specialist Operations Unit will be taking part in a nationally co-ordinated week-long operation to enforce new penalties for using a mobile phone while driving.
The enforcement campaign, co-ordinated by the NPCC (National Police Chief’s Council) and supported by THINK! Road Safety runs from today until Tuesday.
It will see targeted operations and work to educate drivers of the change in the law.
It will be the second week of action this year, following on from one in January, when a total of 133 motorists were apprehended for using their mobile phones with 72 of those in County Durham.
Anyone who wants to report a driver who is behaving in a careless or dangerous manner can call police on 101.