Dozens of HGVs stopped on the M25 were for mobile phone offences ahead of changes to the law to make the use of handheld devices at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

A week-long operation by Surrey Police patrolling the orbital motorway involved pulling over 115 goods vehicles, 43 of which were HGVs.

From today (24 March), drivers are breaking the law if they use handheld mobile phones behind the wheel for any use, including to take photos or videos or scroll through playlists.

The move closes a loophole that previously stopped dangerous drivers from being prosecuted.

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Surrey police said that because of the size of lorries, they were the ones that would cause the most harm if there was a road traffic collision due to the driver not paying attention.

From today, drivers can still make contactless payments, for example at drive-thrus, but their vehicle must be stationary.

They can also still use a device hands-free while driving if it’s secured in a cradle.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I will do everything in my power to keep road-users safe, which is why I am taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel.”

The AA said the tightening up of the rules was much needed and would help make the roads safer:

“Those that believe that they can still play with their phone because it’s in a cradle must think again – they leave themselves open to prosecution for either careless or dangerous driving,” said AA president Edmund King.