"we are also committed to making our roads safe."
UK drivers face being fined £200 for touching their mobile phone while driving. The rule has been introduced to get around a loophole.
Currently, reckless drivers only face prosecution if they are caught using their phone to text or make a call.
If someone uses their phone to take a photo or to scroll through their music playlist or to use it as a Sat Nav, they are exempt.
But a change was announced on November 1, 2019, which means that drivers cannot touch their phones for any reason.
If they are caught, motorists face six points on their licence and a fine of up to £200.
The new ban is expected to come into force by spring 2020.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained that the new rule will bring the law into the 21st Century.
He said: “We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern-day life, but we are also committed to making our roads safe.”
Mr Shapps added that drivers using a mobile phone put others at serious risk by “hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time”.
Roadside cameras are being trialled by Highways England. The cameras are able to automatically take pictures of drivers using their phones.
The cameras will be fixed to overhead gantries and take high definition pictures of drivers through windscreens.
The images will then be sent to the police and intended prosecution notices will be posted to the driver in the same way as speeding penalties.
Australia follows a similar law which has caught over 100,000 drivers. This includes one man who was sending a text message while a front-seat passenger held the steering wheel.
In early 2019, Ramsey Barreto successfully appealed against a conviction for filming a crash scene while driving after his lawyers argued that he did not use his phone for “interactive communication”.
The Commons’ Transport Select Committee released a report which advised the Government to introduce stronger penalties for those using a mobile phone while driving. This has led to the rule being announced.
In 2018, 683 UK drivers were injured in crashes where the driver had been using a phone. This included 118 serious injuries and 29 deaths.
Labour MP Lilian Greenwood chairs the committee and calls the announcement “great news”. However, she warned that “the risk from hands-free devices is just as real”.
“While we’re pleased that ministers will prioritise work on hand-held mobiles, this issue still needs to be addressed.”
Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, stated that making the rules tougher is “only as powerful as the level of enforcement”.
He added: “In the absence of technology being used to catch offenders, the decline in the number of road police officers means there is a much lesser chance of being caught in person today than there was 10 years ago.”