Drivers who break the law by using their mobile phone while driving without a handsfree kit are to be faced with larger fines and penalty points on their licence.

From 27 February, those using a hand-held phone while driving will carry a £60 fixed-penalty fine and 3 points on a licence.

Should a driver contest the penalty and go to court, a maximum fine of £1000 could be imposed for car drivers and £2500 for drivers of vans, lorries, buses or coaches.

The Department of Transport will be launching a TV, radio and internet campaign to alert people to the change in the penalties.

Currently drivers who are caught using their mobile phone while driving are subject to a £30 fine with no risk of penalty points.

Nearly 74,000 fines were imposed on drivers in 2004 for talking on their phones.

However a survey in October by Car Parts Direct said that the majority of motorists are not using their mobile phones at the wheel because of peer pressure and not due to concerns about getting collared by the police, according to new research.

Fifty-eight per cent of motorists admitted they felt intimidated by other motorists if they used their mobile phone while driving, as opposed to 38% who felt under pressure to drive legally.