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Sending a text message or making a phone call while at the wheel will land drivers with harsher penalties, the tranpsort minister warned. In a move to crack down on dangerous driving, Patrick McLoughlin indicated that fines for a variety of offences would rise by 50%, from £60 to £90.  

The number of penalty points offenders receive on their licence will remain at three. The cost increase will cover fixed penalty notices for the offence of using a hand-held device while driving, the Daily Mail said, and also for speeding and going through a red light.  

A new penalty of three penalty points and a GBP90 fine will also be introduced  for a number of careless driving offences, including cutting up other drivers, eating a sandwich or lighting a cigarette at the wheel, driving at an inappropriate speed and needlessly hogging the middle lane on a motorway.  

New drug-driving laws will also be introduced, and the current drink-drive limit will not be lowered.   Mr McLoughlin, who admitted at a road safety conference in London that he had used a mobile phone to make calls while driving, but would not do so now, said: "We want to send a clear message to dangerous drivers: If you continue to show complete disregard for the safety of other road users, we will catch you - and we will punish you."  

More than a million drivers have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel since 2003, when using one other than for making an emergency call was made illegal. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "With both texting and hand-held use of mobile phones at the wheel causing more impairment than being at the drink-drive limit or under the influence of cannabis, the police need to target the large number of motorists continuing to flout the law."

IAM's response to the fine increase for texting while driving

IAM director of policy Neil Greig said: "An increase in fixed penalty levels is needed to maintain the deterrent effect. But the fear of getting caught is the key to changing driver behaviour and high profile policing must be a top priority. Any income from new fines should be put back into road safety to counter recent spending cuts." 

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