Ministers plan to scrap remedial courses for drivers using hand-held phones

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Drivers caught using a mobile phone illegally for the first time will no longer be able to avoid getting points on their licence by taking a remedial course, under plans announced by the Department for Transport (DfT).

A number of police forces currently offer workshops to educate motorists about the dangers of making a call while they are behind the wheel.

But the DfT believes this is not a tough enough measure to deter people from answering a call while they are driving or to change their future behaviour.

The plan was announced in the Department's response to a consultation on the punishments handed out to motorists caught using a hand-held phone.

The document confirmed the Government's intention to double the fine from £100 to £200 and increase the penalty points from three to six, which first emerged in September.

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

Just 16,900 drivers were handed fixed penalty notices in relation to the offence in England and Wales last year, compared with 123,100 in 2011, Home Office data shows.

The 2015 figure represents a 43% decrease on the previous 12 months.

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.

DfT figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 440 accidents in Britain last year, including 22 which were fatal and 75 classed as serious.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Penalties for using a hand-held mobile have been around since 2003 but the problem has been getting worse not better, not least because of the rise in mobile ownership - two-thirds of the population now have a smartphone.

"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."

Legislation to increase the punishments for illegal phone use will be put before Parliament "as soon as possible", the DfT said.

Last week a lorry driver who killed a woman and three children by ploughing into their stationary car while scrolling through music on his mobile phone was jailed for 10 years.

Tomasz Kroker, 30, smashed into the vehicle carrying Tracey Houghton, 45, her sons, Ethan, 13, and Josh, 11, and her stepdaughter, Aimee Goldsmith, 11, at 50mph on August 10.

Their car was shunted underneath the back of a heavy goods vehicle and crushed to a third of its size, immediately killing the family, from Bedfordshire, on the A34 dual carriageway north of Newbury in Berkshire.