Mobile phone use whilst driving was a contributory factor in 21 fatal accidents in 2014 and 22 in 2015
From the first half of 2017, drivers caught calling, texting or using an app while driving will receive six penalty points instead of the current three while the on-the-spot fine will double to £200.
The move means that newly qualified drivers – who can only gain six points before being banned – could have their licences revoked if caught using their phone.
Drivers who are caught twice for the offence will automatically appear in court and face fines of up to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban.
In addition, the Government is to launch a THINK! campaign to tackle this issue, to make it socially unacceptable like drink driving or not wearing a seatbelt.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “As technology develops, mobile phones are common place, but we need to take responsibility for our actions and as drink or drug driving has become socially unacceptable, so must using mobile phones at the wheel.
“It may seem harmless when you are replying to a text, answering a call or using an app, but the truth is your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others.”
The move has been greeted by the RAC, which last week published research showing that handheld mobile phone use while driving is now “at epidemic proportions”.
Road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “The Government’s swift action to the findings in the RAC Report on Motoring shows they understand just how dangerous it can be to use a handheld mobile phone at the wheel. Increasing the fine from £100 to £200 and doubling the penalty points from three to six will help to deter people from doing it in the first place.
“However, it is just as important that laws are seen to be enforced, and the decline in the numbers of dedicated road traffic police has only heightened the feeling that those who use a handheld phone while driving simply get away with it.”