Motorists caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel could face a £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence from today.
Under the tougher legislation, new drivers caught using their phones in the car face losing their licence as a consequence. Six penalty points are enough to see them barred from the road in the first two years of their motoring career – and they will have to retake their practical and theory tests to get back on the road.
Until today, motorists caught using their mobile devices while behind the wheel were only liable for a fine of £100 and three penalty points.
The new rules are now in force in England, Scotland and Wales. Drivers who are caught offending in this manner multiple times could be hit with a £1,000 fine as well as a six-month driving ban.
To help enforce the new legislation, police forces around the country are carrying out a seven-day crackdown.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the Daily Mail that the harsher penalties will be a "strong deterrent".
He said: "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."
He said: "We need to break this addiction and the best way is for drivers to go cold turkey. Turn off the phone and put it in the glove box."
The RAC is also urging motorists to put their phones away while behind the wheel, and has launched a new awareness website called BePhoneSmart.co.uk.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: "We recognise that tackling a problem as complex as the UK's mobile phone one was going to require a huge amount of effort. Tougher laws, as introduced today, combined with targeted enforcement by police forces and a sustained package of education telling drivers about the risks of driving distracted are all crucial.
"At the same time, encouraging motorists to take personal responsibility for their actions – and to really think about the relationship they have with their smart phone when they get in the driver's seat – needs to be at the heart of a campaign to change their behaviour."