- A £200 fine and six points if caught using a phone at the wheel
- Motorists reveal how they have changed their driving habits
- Some drivers are still unaware of the laws
Road safety experts from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents say that using any sort of phone while driving makes you four times more likely to crash.
In 2015, 440 accidents in the UK were caused by the driver using a mobile phone, 75 of which were serious, while 22 were fatal.
But people are still using their phone at the wheel – whether it's to send a message, check a notification or even make a call. A police campaign in November 2016 led to 7,966 fixed penalty notices being handed out to drivers for mobile phone offences.
In light of these figures, the government has tackled the problem by raising the penalties. The new law could mean an on-the-spot fine of £200 plus six points on your licence. What's more, the cost of your car insurance would likely go up too.
But will this be enough to curb Britain's car phone use? Motoring journalist Simon Heptinstall (@sheptinstall) spoke to five drivers across the country to find out.
Oliver, businessman, London
The new penalties will make a difference to me; I need that extra deterrent because the technology is so compulsive. It's sometimes like I have this addictive need to communicate.
Years ago, I was driving through a town looking for a friend's house and called him for directions. I was doing about 20mph when along came a copper. I barely knew it was an offence at the time. It was like a parking ticket with a £30 fine. I was a bit miffed.
Later I thought about what I'd done and realised it was ridiculous. Since then I've really tried to resist using the phone in the car. In London, I've become a zealot about anyone I see doing it. I make signs to tell them to get off the phone, even though people get angry at me when I do.
These new penalties are an additional reason for drivers like me to resist. There's clearly multiple phone usage on our roads and somehow it must change.
Anna, author, Halifax
Living among twisty country roads and spending a lot of time walking them, I loathe this behaviour with a passion – I see drivers notice me at the last minute because they're too engrossed on their mobiles.
I'm in total support of tightening up the penalties. It makes me feel safer, and it won't affect me when I'm driving because I make sure my phone is somewhere I can't hear it, which removes the temptation. Can there be any calls worth the risk of causing an accident? Tougher penalties seem the only way to force the message home.
Sian, HR manager, Wiltshire
The increase to the penalty has brought home to me how dangerous it is to use your mobile while driving – I now deem it a complete no-no.
In the past, I've been guilty of making hand-held calls, but in the last couple of years I have had Bluetooth in the car so I don't have to touch my phone.
I confess I might have sneakily sent a text if I was stuck in traffic before, as my phone was always to hand. With the new laws, I've decided to make sure my phone's out of reach, like in my handbag – sometimes I even put it in the boot.
Claire, paramedic, Kent
Of course, I approve of the new increased penalties – being a paramedic, I've seen what can happen. I once treated a girl who had been texting while driving. Her car veered off the road into a ditch at high speed. Luckily, she was relatively unscathed and didn't take anyone else out – it could have been much worse.
I do a lot of driving outside of work, but make sure I have Bluetooth so I can answer on hands-free. The new laws won't change what I do, but I'm hoping they will make other people think twice.
Tracey, shop owner, Devon
I hope the large fines act as a deterrent and help save lives. I must confess, however, that I made a very quick phone call while stationary in a traffic jam on the M6 to tell my brother that I would be terribly late.
I've only learned by doing this interview that it wasn't legal, as I didn't know the law still applied when you are stationary – I certainly won't do it again. With these new penalties and all the publicity there really is no excuse, so I'll pull in at a service station instead.
It's no small task to persuade the UK's population, who collectively check their smartphones over a billion times a day, according to a recent Deloitte survey discovered, to ignore their mobile while driving.
However, the new laws have had an impact, whether it's making people more aware of the potential dangers of using your phone at the wheel, or even bringing their attention to the regulations in the first place.
For more advice on the laws around using your mobile phone at the wheel, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has published several useful guides.