First-time phone-use drivers face points

Woman using a mobile phone in the car Image copyright PA

Drivers in England, Scotland and Wales caught using a mobile phone for the first time will automatically receive penalty points, under government plans.

Previously, motorists in some police force areas could avoid points by taking a remedial driving course.

But ministers believe it is not a tough enough measure to deter people from using a hand-held phone while driving.

They have also confirmed plans to raise fines for offences from £100 to £200 and penalty points from three to six.

The scrapping of the driving course option is among several measures announced in a government response to a consultation on punishments for drivers caught using hand-held phones.

The government first announced in September that it was going to increase fines and double penalty points.

Details of the new measures, which are due to take effect next year, follow the jailing last month of lorry driver Tomasz Kroker, who killed a mother and three children while distracted by his phone.

Ministers will also launch a consultation on dangerous driving offences by the end of the year.

Speaking during a visit to India, Mrs May said she wanted to make using a mobile phone at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Tomasz Kroker was jailed for killing a mother and three children while distracted by his mobile phone

She said the government would work with the public to "raise awareness" of the dangers of driving and dialling.

She said that punishments for drivers who killed and maimed people because their attention had been on their phone should be made to "fit the crime", as a deterrent to other motorists.

Fine numbers plummet

The number of fines issued for motorists caught using a mobile phone illegally has plummeted by 84% since 2011.

Some 16,900 drivers were handed fixed-penalty notices in England and Wales last year, compared with 123,100 in 2011, Home Office data shows.

Motoring groups believe the decline is due to a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015.

Department for Transport figures show that a driver being impaired or distracted by their phone had been a contributory factor in 440 accidents in Britain last year, including 22 which were fatal and 75 classed as serious.

Mrs May said: "Sadly, we have seen too many times the devastating and heart-breaking consequences of using a mobile phone while driving.

"A moment's distraction can wreck the lives of others forever.

"We are determined to make our roads safer by taking action against those who flout the law and put other people at risk."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "By ruling out courses and doubling the fine, ministers are reflecting public concern and showing they want to stamp out a potentially lethal activity before it becomes entrenched behaviour for a growing number of drivers."

The measures will not affect Northern Ireland, where drivers are currently given three penalty points and a £60 fine for the offence.

The Department for Infrastructure has said there are no plans to change this, but it "will continue to monitor changes being made in Britain to see what can be learned".

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