The tough new laws will come into force on February 27, it has been announced.
Part of the Road Safety Act, the law also includes the same penalty for drivers using a hands-free phone who are deemed by the police to not have proper control of their vehicle.
Increasing the fine and adding penalty points to drivers’ licences is a tacit admission by the government that many still flout the original law – which would result in a £30 fine – because it is seen as too weak a penalty.
Critics also suggest that the police are catching very few motorists talking on mobiles, and it seems unlikely that making the law tougher will change the number of prosecutions.
Announcing the date, transport secretary Douglas 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. That is why in December 2003 we introduced new laws preventing motorists from driving while using a hand-held mobile.
‘We have seen a groundswell of support for this move. But, worryingly, while 92% of people agree with the law, 21% of drivers admit to breaking it. That is why, from February 27, the Road Safety Act will introduce this tougher fixed penalty.’
Advice from road safety department Think! also singles out companies, reiterating the dangers of causing employees to drive while on the phone.It says: ‘If you are an employer you can be prosecuted if you require employees to make or receive calls while driving.
‘It is an offence to cause or permit the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving. It is also an offence to cause or permit a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle.’
A campaign to raise awareness began on Monday and includes radio, press and online activity to highlight both the change in penalties and the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.