The Ministry of Justice has announced tough new laws to punish drivers who use their mobile phones while on the move.

The new offence of Causing Death by Careless Driving carries a prison sentence of up to five years, and comes into force on Monday, closing a previous loophole.

Sky News reports that the new measures toughen the penalties for motorists who kill because they were "avoidably distracted". This includes drivers on the phone or texting. It also encomapsses drinking and eating, adjusting a GPS or car stereo, applying make-up or reading a map. Smartphones such as Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry are also included in the list of possible driving distractions.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "In cases where death occurs there will always be an expectation that a severe sentence will result.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said: "Drivers who kill through carelessness will no longer be able to walk away from court with just a fine. Driving requires full concentration at all times. A moment's distraction can make the difference between life and death."

Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on roads policing and Deputy Chief Constable Gwent Police Mick Giannasi said: "Careless drivers put themselves and others at risk every time they get behind the wheel of a car. Despite good progress in recent years to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the UK's roads, more can be done to prevent the unnecessary loss of life. The introduction of this legislation will hit home the message that driving is a hazardous activity that requires total concentration. Allowing distractions to affect your standard of driving is not acceptable and will now be more appropriately punished under the law."

Lawmakers expect about 150 motorists a year to be jailed after being convicted of the "death by careless" offence.

Previously, the maximum punishment for similar crimes was a £5,000 fine and points on the driving licence.