Motorists are set to face tougher penalties if caught using a handheld mobile phone while behind the wheel.
The stricter sanctions, which come into force from March 1, mean that caught in the act drivers will face an automatic fine of £200, while penalty points for the offence will double from three to six points.
The rules also relate to drivers using a handheld mobile phone while stopped at traffic lights or stuck in queuing traffic in England, Scotland or Wales.
The crackdown comes in repsonse to a string of fatal accidents caused by Britons driven to distraction by their smartphones.
David Connor, who is a private client partner at North West-based Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors, commented: “Drivers using a handheld phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards, so are far more likely to be involved in an accident, be it a collision with another car or a pedestrian.”
RAC’s annual Report on Motoring revealed that 31 per cent of drivers admitted to using a mobile phone while driving in 2016, compared to just 8 per cent two years earlier.
David added: “It’s been illegal to use a mobile phone behind the wheel since 2003 but we’ve seen a rise in the number of road traffic accident cases relating to mobile phone use in the past few years.
“This ‘always switched on’ culture means people are responding to emails and texts and checking social media feeds while on the road, but it simply isnt worth the risk. The new sanctions will make people think twice about the reckless practice.”
Offenders who get caught twice also risk going to court, being fined up to £1,000 and being handed a two year driving ban.