In the spring of 2017, new legislation came into force to deter drivers from using mobile phones at the wheel.
From March 1, people caught using a phone whilst driving could have been issued with six penalty points and a £200 fine.
The tougher sanctions were introduced by the Department of Transport amid mounting concern about the increase in the number of people using mobile phones at the wheel and the lack of prosecutions and convictions of offenders.
Not only will those caught get a £200 on-the-spot fine, but if they are caught twice and accrue 12 points they will automatically appear in court and face a fine of £1,000, along with a driving ban of at least six months.
However, new drivers will be hardest hit. They face having their licences revoked after the first offence, and to regain their licence must reapply for a provisional licence and may only drive as a learner until they pass further theory and practical tests.
During the five-year period between 2011 and 2015, 10,182 fixed penalty notices were issued in the North East and 2,445 drivers convicted in Magistrates Courts of the offence of using or causing others to use a mobile phone while driving.
Road Safety GB North East chairman Paul Watson welcomed the tougher laws. He said: “Just looking away for a split second is all it takes to hit a cyclist or pedestrian, or run into a stationary car.”