The number of fines handed out to drivers in Devon and Cornwall for using their mobile phones at the wheel has risen by two-thirds following an update to the law, new figures show.

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 Devon and Cornwall Police handed out 821 fixed penalty notices to people for driving while using a hand-held device in 2022.

This was up from 497 the year before – although people's travel behaviour in 2021 was affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, 2022 levels remained above 2019, when 742 FPNs were issued.

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.

This is likely due to a change in the law in March 2022.

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.

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 phone. The reality is that someone is always watching.

"Private and police-owned cameras are a good part of the toolkit to help prosecute drivers, but we do not want to see an overreliance on technology. The best way to deter illegal driving behaviours is to increase the number of traffic officers and have a visible presence on our roads."

RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis said far too many drivers are "prepared to put lives at risk by engaging in this dangerous practice".

Mr Dennis urged police forces to use cameras to automatically detect drivers using mobile phones.

He added: "Without the dial being turned up on enforcement, there’s every chance we will never bring about the change needed to curb this behaviour. Ultimately, we have to make using a handheld phone at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving."

The fine was paid for 485 (59%) of the FPNs handed out in Devon and Cornwall, while none led to driver retraining.

Court action was required in a further 325 (40%).

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The use of mobile phones whilst driving is dangerous and reckless and can lead to serious road traffic collisions.

"The increase in the numbers of mobile phone use whilst driving related fixed penalty notices is likely due to a recent change in legislation to include wider use of a hand-held device whilst driving."