A MAJOR campaign to highlight the dangers of using mobile phones while driving is to be launched.
The awareness-raising drive by the Cleveland Road Safety Partnership – using the slogan ‘One text or call could wreck it all’ – wants to force road-users to switch off their phones when they are behind the wheel.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email the newsdesk or telephone the newsdesk on (01429) 239380.
Last year, 1,308 drivers in Cleveland, including Hartlepool, were prosecuted for using their mobile phones while driving.
As part of the month-long campaign which started today, the partnership will also be highlighting the legal consequences of using a mobile phone while using a motor vehicle.
Drivers will be warned that they will receive a £60 fixed penalty notice fine and have their licence endorsed with three penalty points if caught by the police. The fine can rise to £1,000 if the matter goes to court and £2,500 if the offender was driving a bus, coach or heavy goods vehicle.
Simon Milner, Chair of the Cleveland Casualty Reduction Group – a sub-group of the partnership, said: “Many people think writing a text is very quick and simple and they often don’t consider the dangers associated with sending a message whilst driving.
“By sending just one text drivers are putting not only their own lives at risk but also the lives of other road users and pedestrians.
“Using a mobile phone whilst driving significantly increases the chance of being involved in a serious road accident and that’s why we are urging drivers to think twice and resist the temptation to send a text or to look at their mobile phones when they are behind the wheel.”
Acting Inspector Gary Hatton, from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “All the research is telling us that drivers using mobile phones whilst driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
“Driving requires your full attention and you cannot talk or text on your phone and still concentrate on your driving. It’s a recipe for disaster.
“Despite the threat of a fine of £60 and three penalty points, there are still too many drivers who are taking the risk and endangering everyone on the road. My advice would be to switch it off, or ignore it until you stop and then answer it. Better to miss a call than miss out on the rest of your life.”
Statistics also show that between 2006 and 2010, distraction as a result of using mobile phones was a contributory factor in 1,690 road accidents resulting in injuries, including 110 fatal accidents.
In addition, research carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists found that 53 per cent of adults aged 17 to 24 admitted texting while driving and 24 per cent admitted accessing e-mails and social networking sites.