New drivers who are caught using a phone at the wheel will lose their licence under new legislation that comes into force today.
Previously they were able to avoid getting points on their licence by taking part in retraining courses.
More experienced motorists can lose their licence if they receive 12 points in a three-year period.
It follows a tragic incident in which Polish lorry driver Tomasz Kroker killed four members of the same family after failing to stop while scrolling through music on his phone.
Twenty-two people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents on Britain’s roads in 2015 where a motorist using a mobile was a contributory factor.
Research by the RAC has found that one in four motorists admits checking texts, emails and social media while driving.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said increasing fixed penalties would act as a “strong deterrent”.
He added: “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.”
The intervention follows a warning from the RAC that use of mobile phones behind the wheel is at “epidemic proportions” because people do not believe they will be caught by the Police.
According to research the proportion of people who think it is acceptable to take a short phone call while driving has doubled in the last two years.
Police forces are carrying out a seven-day crackdown from Wednesday, with extra patrols and an “increased focus” on catching drivers using handheld phones.
Around 3,600 motorists were handed penalties during a similar initiative last month.
Edmund King, the AA president, said too many motorists are “addicted” to their phones, with half of young drivers unable to bring themselves to switch them off before starting a journey.
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.”