Tougher rules for drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel will come into force tomorrow.
Motorists who have had their licences for less than two years will be banned if they use their device just once, as authorities look to crack down on offenders.
Meanwhile, penalties for all drivers caught using their handsets in the car are doubling .
Under the new laws, offenders will be handed six penalty points rather than three and a £200 fine instead of the former £100 fine.
The law also applies when drivers are sitting in stationary traffic.
Novice drivers who lose their licences will have to apply and pay for a new provisional license and pass both the theory and practical parts of the test all over again.
The only exception is during an emergency, when drivers may use a phone to call 999 or 112 if it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
Under the law, use of a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel will be punished whether a driver is making a call, using it on loudspeaker, texting, filming, taking a picture or using the internet.
During a Daily Mirror investigation last year, reporters discovered drivers continued to risk lives by using their phones behind the wheel, despite a huge campaign that warned them of the dangers.
Plans to introduce the tougher measures were announced by the Department for Transport in November.
Here are a few important questions answered:
Can you use your phone at traffic lights?
No. Even when you are stationary it is still classed as driving and you are still in charge of the vehicle so using your phone in traffic or at lights is still an offence.
Can you press buttons on your phone to answer/hang up a call on hands-free?
No. The phone must be secured in a holder out of the 45-degree angle of the driver’s view. You can’t touch it while driving.
Is it OK to answer a call while driving if your phone is on loudspeaker on your knee?
No. It’s still classed as using your phone while driving whether it is in your hand or not.
Can you use your phone as a sat nav?
Yes – as long as you programme it before you start the car and set off and it’s in a holder out of the 45-degree angle of the driver’s view. You cant re-programme or touch it while in motion, the same rules apply for any sat nav.
Nick Lloyd, road safety manager for the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said they hoped the new stricter penalties will mean “drivers think twice.”
“Taking your theory and practical driving tests can be an expensive and stressful time, so imagine having to go through it all again for one moment of stupidity.
“We understand how difficult it can be to ignore your mobile phone, but there’s not a single reason that will excuse putting people’s lives at risk, and hopefully these new stricter penalties will mean drivers think twice.”
While the use of hand free kits is legal, RoSPA advises that not even this should be attempted while driving.
The RoSPA added in a statement: “Although you won’t be taking your eyes off the road, merely engaging in a conversation will mean that your attention is elsewhere and not fully on the road and the environment around you, and if your driving is affected you could be charged with “not being in proper control of your vehicle”.”