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JUST as it now seems incomprehensible that there was once no legal drink-drive limit, so future generations will look back in astonishment at the leniency now granted to drivers who use mobile phones.

Indeed, the only question is how many lives will be damaged and destroyed before such a change comes about.

Increasing the fine for phoning or texting at the wheel to £90, as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin intends to do, is the very least that should be done to deter this appalling practice. Unsurprisingly, some are now calling for these fines to be accompanied by at least six penalty points or even instant disqualification.

It does not matter how draconian the sanctions are, however, if the risk of actually being caught remains low.

While it is true that around 150,000 drivers a year are convicted of offences involving mobile phones, the fact that an AA poll found 42 per cent of drivers admitted using a hand-held phone illegally gives an indication of how many motorists continue to get away with it.

Manpower cuts and a greater reliance on speed cameras to do jobs once performed by police officers mean that drivers are now far less likely to be stopped, as the number of vehicles on the road with defective lights demonstrates.

If Mr McLoughlin’s tougher penalties are to have any impact, however, they must be accompanied by far greater police diligence.