From today the law has been tightened meaning that the fixed penalty will for the first time include the award of three penalty points as well as doubling the fine to £60 for use of a hand-held phone. The same changes have been made to the penalties for not having proper control of a vehicle - a measure which can be used where a driver has been distracted by using a hands-free mobile phones.
The new penalty is part of the Road Safety Act and is a response to figures that show 21% of drivers are flouting the mobile phone law, first introduced in December 2003.
The police have the power to prosecute anyone caught using their phone to talk, send texts, take pictures or access the internet while driving - including when stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
Home Office figures for 2004 show that nearly 74,000 fixed penalty notices were issued for illegal use of a mobile phone while driving. If the police or the driver chooses to take a case to court rather than use a fixed penalty notice, the maximum fine is £1,000 (£2,500 for van drivers).