New penalties for motorists using mobile phones while driving come into force on Wednesday (March 1).
Drivers will face a £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence if caught.
The changes, which are double the original consequences of £100 and three points, are the result of a government consultation with the public and campaigners say they reflect not only how socially unacceptable the Department for Transport want to make the practice, but also how intolerant the majority of the public are of it.
Sussex Safer Roads Partnership has been running a campaign since January entitled It Can Wait, which stresses that nothing is as important as focussing on driving, and whatever your phone is doing, your main concern should be getting to your destination in one piece.
With the changes in the penalties, the National Police Chiefs Council is leading a national week of enforcement specifically surrounding the topic. Surrey and Sussex Police forces are deploying officers for a highly-visible operation which will target motorists who do not see the risks of what they are doing, and who continue to put other road users in danger.
Superintendent Chris Moon, head of the Roads Policing Unit for both forces, said, “Using your mobile phone while driving has long been a very dangerous activity, and is a reason for many serious crashes.
“The new penalties reflect this and show that using a phone while driving won’t be tolerated. Although mobile phones are seemingly essential to modern-day life, that does not mean you have to be on it or able to answer it every moment of the day. “Our advice is to put your phone on silent, put it in the glove box, or turn it off completely. Get into the habit of telling people who may contact you that you will be driving, and it is also their responsibility to not call you while you are doing this.”
Last year, 22 collisions cited mobile phones as a causation factor. There were 1058 tickets sent out for mobile phone offences, and Operation Crackdown, the Sussex Police public report tool for anti-social driving, received 3,103 reports of motorists being on their mobiles.
The law states the only time you can use a hand-held mobile phone while driving is when calling 999 in an emergency. Hands-free kits are allowed by law, but they could still be an in-car distraction.
If an officer thinks you are not in proper control of the vehicle, this could also be an offence.
Motorists can also report other drivers using their mobiles to Operation Crackdown at www.operationcrackdown.org