WARNINGS have been issued to drivers who used mobile phones behind the wheel on the day that they face tougher penalties.
From today drivers face a £200 fine and six points on their licence if caught out – double the previous punishments.
And in a week-long crackdown, starting today as the law comes into force, Hampshire police will refuse to allow anyone to take a safety course instead of court.
Figures show since 2014 there have been 56 crashes linked with mobile phone use, resulting in 73 injuries and four people dead.
In that time, January 2014 to September 2016, a total of 14,651 tickets were issued to drivers found to be using a mobile.
Superintendent Simon Dodds, head of the roads policing unit, said: ‘If you look at the evidence base, it would support the fact that more and more drivers are driving while using their mobile phone.
‘The consequence of that if you look at Hampshire and Thames Valley Police, there’s over 260 people injured and 15 people killed on our roads.
‘We’ve got to the position where we need to take action.’
He said many people saw it as acceptable but the force wants to bring it in line with society’s harsher attitudes toward drink-drivers.
‘You’re four times more likely to be involved in an accident and your reaction times are 50 per cent slower. That’s very similar to drink-driving.’
He added: ‘The safest thing to do is if you need to make a telephone call, find somewhere safe to pull over. That has to be the message that we give out to drivers.’
Following the week-long crackdown, from March 8 drivers will no longer be routinely offered a safety course, an alternative to a fixed penalty notice.
Police say the only time it is legal to use a mobile phone while driving is when it is properly fitted into a hands-free kit, which can be used without touching it.
New drivers can have their licence revoked if caught using a mobile within two years of passing their test as part of the new legislation.