Distracted drivers are to blame for about five percent of road traffic casualties in the North East every year.

A large proportion of those distractions involve mobile phones. Drivers using a mobile phone whilst at the wheel – either hand-held or hands-free – are four times more likely to be involved in a collision than other drivers.

However, eating and drinking at the wheel, adjusting the radio or CD player, talking to friends and relatives, or responding to children in the car, are all major distractions that cause collisions on the roads.

The best advice is to keep your mind and your eyes on the road, and your hands on the wheel, at all times. Before you set off, switch your mobile phone off and put it out of sight.

It only takes a second to be distracted, but that second could cost a life.

Changes in the law

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.”

“Just looking away for a split second is all it takes to hit a cyclist or pedestrian, or run into a stationary car.”

Don’t let your phone distract you

If a driver travelling at 30mph spent an average of two seconds looking at their phone, they will have travelled 27 metres while not looking at the road. This is more than twice the length of a double decker bus.

At 40mph, they would travel 36m – more than three times the length of a double decker bus.

At 70mph, it would be 63m, which is almost the width of a football pitch.

These figures can be used to calculate the risk when a driver is distracted for any reason – not just by a mobile phone.

Top tips

  •  Switch your phone off and put it out of sight when driving

  • Keep conversation to a minimum

  • Don’t be tempted to fiddle with the radio or CD player

  • Ask your passengers not to distract you

  • Leave eating and drinking until you have stopped the vehicle

  • Don’t try to multi-task whilst driving

  • Avoid rubber necking when collisions occur on the opposite carriageway

  • Keep your eyes on the road ahead – not on the scenery around you

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