Police and crime commissioner Vera Baird is backing calls for drivers to put away their mobile phones.
Road safety Charity Brake has launched a campaign to coincide with Road Safety Week, which started yesterday, urging motorists to turn off their phones and not have them on in their car at all while driving.
Using the phone in the car, even hands-free, is a distraction and can have a drastic effect on decision-making while behind the wheel.
As reported in the Echo yesterday, 1,340 Sunderland drivers have points on their licence for using their mobiles. In Durham, 2,117 drivers have points.
Mrs Baird said: “I am supporting Brake’s message and completely agree that mobile phones should not be switched on while in the car and driving.
“A phone that is left on in the car can still be a distraction. The alert tone letting you know you have a text message or a call can lead to a momentary loss of focus and, when behind the wheel, that could have devastating consequences.”
Chief Insp George Maratty, head of the Northumbria Police’s motor patrols unit, added: “A mobile phone can be a major distraction in the car, and any distraction to a driver is potentially dangerous.
“Drivers need to be completely focused on the road and what is going on around them at all times. If not, then lives could be put at risk.
“Don’t allow your phone to be a distraction. Switch it off when you are driving and put it somewhere out of sight.
“Motor patrols officers are always on the look out for drivers using their mobile phones, and we carry out operations across the whole of the force area aimed at targeting dangerous drivers.”