HARSHER punishments for drivers using their mobile phones may have helped reduce the number of offences on the region's roads.

The penalties for driving while using a mobile doubled from £100 and three points to £200 and six points last March, and the option for first time offenders to take a driver education course was removed.

The tougher legislation meant that if a newly-qualified driver was found to have committed the offence within their first two years of driving, they would lose their license altogether.

Figures released this week by North Yorkshire Police show a year-on-year reduction in the number of drivers being caught using a mobile.

Between March 2016 and February 2017, police charged 563 drivers with the offence, and 119 drivers for not being in a position to have proper control of their vehicle.

One year on and the numbers have fallen by 25 and 39 per cent respectively for the two offences.

A study by Confused.com revealed that 822 drivers in the North-East were issued fixed penalty notices for using their mobile phone behind the wheel in 2017, a four per cent reduction from 860 the previous year.

Inspector Dave Barf of North Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Group said that whilst the force was encouraged by the results, he stressed that they were not complacent in assuming that all drivers have got the message.

He said: “419 drivers using phones whilst behind the wheel and 72 drivers not being in proper control of their vehicle is still a large number of people committing the offence – and it only needs one message, one phone, one driver and one car to take a life."

He added: “Driving at 30mph, in a two second glance at a phone, your car has travelled 100 feet – do the sensible thing and switch it off or put it away, where you can’t be tempted to look at it."

A survey carried out by Confused.com illustrated that some motorists are still unsure of the law and they compiled a guide that can be found here www.confused.com/on-the-road/driving-law/mobile-phones-law-faqs