Phone use will carry a hefty penalty in NSW over the Christmas break, but usage numbers are climbing.

A new advertising campaign aimed at curbing driver distraction will hit screens shortly, with research showing the number of people caught using the phones illegally on the roads has climbed 20 per cent in the last four years.

According to research from NRMA Insurance, a whopping 41,809 people were caught using their phones during FY2017/18, up from 35,370 in FY14/15.

In New South Wales (NSW), drivers caught using their phone over the Christmas period will be hit with 10 demerit points and a $337 fine. According to the NRMA, around 10 per cent of fatalities on NSW roads were related to illegal phone use.

The punishment for phone use varies around the nation. In Victoria, it's four demerit points and a $455 fine, while it's three points and $368 in South Australia. Western Australia apportions three points and $400, for reference.

“Education – such as the NRMA Insurance campaign we are seeing this Christmas – backed up by strong enforcement is the most effective way to stop people using their phones illegally behind the wheel,” Peter Khoury, NRMA spokesperson, said.

“It is anticipated that next year there will be new camera technology rolled out across NSW to help detect illegal mobile phone use. The NRMA supports this technology if it includes warning signs."

“However at the end of the day when we measure up the safety of our loved ones with the temptation to check your Facebook feed or send a text, it’s a no-brainer,” he added.

The campaign comes just days after an Australian Automobile Association (AAA) study found no state or territory is on track to meet its goals under the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS).

Minted in 2010, the NRSS is aiming for a 30 per cent reduction in road fatalities by 2020. As we approach the end of 2018, we've seen just a 10 per cent drop.

The strategy was subject to a Federal inquiry earlier this year, which found it's suffered an "implementation failure" since its creation.

The 12 months to ending in September 2018 saw no real decrease compared to the its equivalent ending in 2017, with just eight fewer deaths recorded nationally. That's a reduction of just 0.7 per cent.

According to Michael Bradley, AAA chief executive, Australia needs "more resourcing from all levels of government to curb road trauma".