Penalty points for drivers using mobile 'could double'

Driver on mobile phone Image copyright PA
Image caption Currently drivers get three points on their licence if they are caught using a phone behind the wheel

The penalty for using a mobile phone while driving could be doubled from the current three points, the transport secretary has suggested.

Patrick McLoughlin's suggestion comes after Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe called for offenders to get six points on their licence.

The increased sanctions would mean a driver could get banned if they got caught twice in three years.

A government spokesman said it was "considering a number of options".

It has been illegal to use a mobile phone while driving since December 2003.

As it stands offenders get three points on their licence and an initial £100 fine, which could increase to a £1,000 fine should the case go to court.

'Alert people'

Mr McLoughlin's suggestion was made during a lunchtime briefing with journalists on Tuesday.

The Daily Mail reported that he said: "We've got to change this. I want to alert people to what they are doing.

"The person who is using their phone doesn't realise the damage or the danger that they could be in, so it ends up ruining different people's lives."

Figures released by the Department for Transport show that in 2012 there were 17 fatal accidents involving mobile phones and a further 67 "serious accidents".

Home Office figures show that in 2012 in England and Wales more than 92,500 fixed penalty notices were issued for using a handheld mobile phone while driving, which is a fall of 32% on 2011 when more than 123,000 notices were issued.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said she would welcome the proposal should it ever become legislation.

She said: "We hope the government will implement it. Brake has long campaigned for tougher penalties for mobile phone use at the wheel because of the suffering we see the bereaved and injured victims of road crashes put through as the result of such a senseless and unnecessary risk."

Image caption The Met Police confirmed that Sir Bernard was in favour of tougher penalties

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Using a mobile phone while driving is extremely dangerous which is why we are considering a number of options to deter drivers."

'Motorway deaths'

In August 2013 the department increased the initial fine drivers received for getting caught using their phone from £60 to £100.

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "Sadly under this government we have seen the first increase in motorway deaths in nearly a decade.

"Using your phone while driving is illegal and Labour will be pressing the government to take firm action to prevent these avoidable deaths."

Last week research by the motoring group the RAC suggested that a fifth of motorists did not know it was illegal to check social media websites on a phone while driving.

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