Police forces across the country will be cracking down on mobile phone use at the wheel from today (March 1) to March 7, as tougher penalties come into force.
From today, motorists using a phone while driving will receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine (up from the previous three points and £100 penalty), while new drivers face losing their licence.
Motorists caught using their mobile twice or accruing 12 points on their licence will face magistrates’ court, being disqualified and fines of up to £1,000.
New drivers, within two years of passing their test, risk having their licence revoked and lorry or bus drivers can be suspended if caught.
As well as the police crackdown, the Government has launched a Think! campaign to warn drivers of the new penalties and the dangers of using mobiles while driving and encouraging them to put their phone away in the glovebox.
The campaign will see adverts on billboards, radio and social media as well as a hard-hitting video (see below) in cinemas, which was developed in partnership with The AA Charity Trust. Stickers and other in-car merchandise that encourage motorists to put their phone away and out of reach while driving will be distributed through partnerships with driving schools and car rental companies.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our message is simple and clear: do not get distracted by your mobile phone while driving. It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users.
“Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice.
“Everyone has a part to play in encouraging their family and friends not to use their phones while driving – it is as inexcusable as drink-driving.”
About 3,600 drivers were handed penalties in the last co-ordinated enforcement week from January 23 to 29 this year, while more than 10,000 vehicles were stopped by police in November's crackdown, detecting nearly 8,000 offenders.
Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, National Police Chiefs’ Council roads policing lead, said: "These new penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence and will strengthen the deterrent against using a mobile phone at the wheel. We need people to understand that this is not a minor offence that they can get away with.
"Across this week officers will continue to use innovative and intelligence-led tactics to catch and penalise people who are driving while distracted by a mobile phone. However, this is an attitudinal problem that we cannot simply enforce away by putting more officers on the roads.
"This issue has to begin with personal responsibility by drivers. We know that people are more likely to report other drivers using a phone than to view themselves as guilty of it. That has to change.
"Tougher penalties are a step in the right direction, but police forces and partners are working this week to make it socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone at the wheel. It’s about more than what you might have to pay as a penalty – you could hurt or kill an innocent person on the roads by checking a text or taking a call."