Anyone caught using a hand-held device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000 as well as six points on their licence or a full driving ban.
Commenting on the introduction of the new rules, Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Until now, the law has simply not kept pace with the way in which we use smartphones, so the closing of this dangerous loophole is very welcome.
“Figures show that using a mobile phone at the wheel makes reaction times even slower than when driving under the influence of alcohol, so it’s vital that we always give the road our full attention. Brake supports the families of road crash victims, including those who have had lives torn apart because someone did not pay proper attention to their driving. The temptation of looking at a phone can never be worth someone’s life.”