Drivers caught chatting on their mobile phone will face bigger fines and three penalty points from the end of next month.
Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said the increased punishments reflected the serious danger caused by the offence.
He insisted there had been a “groundswell” of public support for the law since its introduction in 2003, but 21 per cent of motorists still admitted to breaking it.
“That is why, from February 27, the Road Safety Act will introduce a tougher fixed penalty of three points on your licence as well as a £60 fine,” Mr Alexander said.
“Research shows that talking on a mobile phone while driving affects your concentration and ability to react to dangerous situations. It’s quite simple – it’s impossible to do two things at once and do them well.”
Fixed penalty doubled
Currently the fine for using a mobile phone while driving is £30, with no penalty points.
A television, radio and internet campaign to highlight the dangers of, and penalties for, driving while using a phone is also being launched today.
Home Office figures for 2004 show that nearly 74,000 fixed penalty notices were handed out for illegal use of a mobile while driving.
If the police or the motorist chooses to go to court rather than pay the FPN, the maximum fine is £1,000 for car offences and £2,500 for vans, lorries, buses and coaches.
However, research by the Liberal Democrats has suggested that only around one in a hundred offenders are caught.
Motorists ‘ignore the law’
Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Far too many motorists have been ignoring the mobile phone law and risking their own lives and those of others on the roads around them.
“We believe the threat of points on a licence and an increased fine will give this legislation new teeth, because those irresponsible people, who think their call is more important than someone’s life, are likely to take the threat to their licence more seriously.
“Using a mobile phone – whether hand-held or hands-free – while at the wheel makes you four times more likely to crash. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees and other road users by having policies in place to ban the use of mobiles while driving for business.”
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