THE number of fines handed out to drivers in Dorset for using their mobile phones at the wheel has risen by a third.

The AA said the tightening of the law has driven the substantial rise in offences across England and Wales but also attributed the increased use of dashcams for helping catch drivers using their mobiles.

Home Office figures show Dorset Police handed out 240 fixed penalty notices to people for driving while using a hand-held device in 2022.

This was up from 179 the year before – although travel behaviours changed in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, 2022 levels remained in line with 2019.

Inspector Craig Tatton of Dorset's Roads Policing Team said: "The changes to the law have not impacted the seriousness with which we take the offence of driving whilst using a mobile phone.

Any increase in fines is likely to be due to increased patrols, particularly through our Interceptor and No Excuse teams, and a real effort to crackdown on all road safety related offences."

Nationally, the number of FPNs handed out by all police forces, excluding the British Transport Police, rose by 34% from 2019 to 38,000 in 2022.

In 2021, just 20,000 FPNs were issued, with every police force, bar one, seeing an increase the following year.

Previously, the law stated drivers were guilty of an offence when using the hand-held device for "interactive communication", but this was updated to incorporate any use.

An offence carries a minimum £200 fine and six points on the driver's licence.

Inspector Tatton added: "Even a momentary distraction caused by a mobile phone can have devastating consequences, and sadly, we come across serious and even fatal collisions all too often that have resulted in motorists not paying full attention to the road and their surroundings.

"We continue to work tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving."

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: "We need drivers to hang up their handsets rather than play with their phones.

"As well as police forces scheduling targeted enforcement events, the rise in privately owned dashcams means drivers are more likely to be caught handling their mobile phones. The reality is that someone is always watching."