Yobs who shine lasers at planes could face five years in jail under a government crackdown.
Offenders could be locked up for using the dazzling beams to blind pilots, bus and trains drivers, hauliers and ships – putting lives at risk.
Aircraft were attacked with laser pens at least 1,258 times last year – an average of three times a day, according to figures from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The British Transport Police also recorded 578 laser incidents on the railways since 2011.
Laser pens, which can be bought for as little as £12, have been used to blind pilots, train drivers and ships. People who use them this way could now face up to five years in prison (file photo)
Experts have warned that the commonly available laser pointers can cause eye damage and in some cases render people temporarily blind.
Laser pens can be bought for as little as £12 and can momentarily dazzle or distract a pilot at crucial moments during take-off and landing.
Under existing legislation shining a laser at an aircraft in flight is a specific criminal offence that carries a fine of up to £2,500.
But the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, unveiled by the Department for Transport today WED, will expand the list of vehicles it is an offence to target to include trains, buses, boats, hovercraft, cars and lorries.
Offenders also face unlimited fines as of the proposed measures to boost safety.
The Bill will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need for police and prosecutors to prove an intention to endanger a vehicle.
It will become an offence to dazzle or distract the operator of a vehicle either deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: ‘Lasers can dazzle, distract or blind those in control of a vehicle, with serious and potentially even fatal consequences.
‘The Government is determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers and take action against those who threaten their safety.’
Commander Simon Bray, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for lasers, said: ‘Recklessly shining a laser at an aircraft or another moving vehicle is deeply irresponsible and dangerous.
‘By causing a distraction or, in some cases, short or long-term eye damage, laser attacks can lead to catastrophic incidents.
Aircraft were attacked with laser pens at least 1,258 times last year according to figures from the Civil Aviation Authority
‘These new and robust measures send a clear message to perpetrators: laser attacks are a crime and serious consequences will follow from committing this offence.’
Laser pens have been a growing concern in the aviation sector in recent years as pilots have been targeted by the beams.
The first laser attack on an aircraft was reported in 2004 and since 2011 there have been around 1,500 incidents in the UK each year.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: ‘Balpa pilots and other transport workers have raised the growing threat of laser attacks for some time.
Under existing laws shining a laser at an aircraft in flight carries a fine of up to £2,500. The British Transport Police recorded 578 laser incidents on the railways since 2011.
‘A Bill to tackle the misuse of lasers is therefore very welcome and we will work with DfT to ensure its effective and speedy implementation.’
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is consulting on whether powerful laser pens should require a licence following concerns about attacks.
The Government said it will consider a range of ideas to boost safety, such as licensing for retailers and shoppers, and restrictions on advertising. Licensing schemes already exist in countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States.