Merseyside Police is carrying out a day of action today (Thursday, 2 March) to target drivers using their mobile phones and other handheld devices, as new legislation is introduced nationally imposing new penalties.
The new laws mean that from now, the fine for using a mobile device will rise to £200 and the points penalty will be doubled to six. This could result in new drivers losing their licence for committing a single offence.
It has been illegal to use a mobile device, held in the hand, whilst driving or stopped with the engine on, since December 2003. However, a significant number of drivers are still using devices behind the wheel, in Merseyside and nationally. A Merseyside week of action in January saw over 50 arrests for mobile phone offences, and hundreds more drivers were stopped and given advice.
Chief Inspector Tony Jones, head of Matrix Roads Policing, said: "We held a week of action in January to give fair warning to drivers ahead of this legislation, as we don't want anyone to find out the hard way, either through causing an accident, or being caught as part of our increased activity.
"The new laws will particularly hit new drivers. A new driver prosecuted for using their mobile phone will face losing their licence after just one offence, which reflects how seriously we treat all irresponsible and dangerous drivers.
“Merseyside Police is committed to reducing the number of people killed or injured on our roads in 2017 and we are determined to target motorists who flout the law and recklessly endanger lives. This activity takes place on a daily basis and the ideal scenario for us is that we start to stop less drivers as the messages hit home, which we have seen in relation to drink driving.
"Modern phones have changed how we communicate and the rise in people using them to make calls, text, access social media, take photos and videos, and even check emails when they should be 100% focussed on the road is a concern. There is never an excuse, and drivers should always pull over to a safe place before using their phone.
"People who ignore this advice present a massive danger to other road users, pedestrians and to themselves and their passengers. They are distracted from the road, their attention and reflexes are impaired, and such behaviour is equal to drink and drug driving, and the non-wearing of seatbelts, for sheer recklessness.
"If you know people who use their phones at the wheel, challenge them, make sure your friends and family do not lose their licence, their job, or cause a serious accident through their behaviour."