GOVERNMENT chiefs could be getting set to take a closer look at doubling the penalty for people caught using a mobile phone while driving.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said he "wants to look at" at the idea after the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, called for the punishment to be upped from three points on a driving licence to six, meaning a driver would be banned if caught twice in the space of three years.
Mr McLoughlin said he was considering the step in an effort to lower the "appalling" number of accidents involving drivers using mobiles.
"Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has called for six penalty points for the use of a mobile phone. It is an interesting suggestion.
"It is one that I would want to look at.
"There could be some difficulties about it but I think we have got to get the message across to people about safety."
The latest figures suggest one road death every fortnight is directly related to mobile phone use – something Mr McLoughlin has described as "absolutely appalling".
The plans could also see a newly-qualified driver banned after just one offence given their initial threshold for a ban is just six points.
Fines could also be increased from £100 to £150.
Burton's top cop, Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, said: "Road safety is a big priority for police in East Staffordshire.
"However, this is not the only route we can take as we can also offer drivers the chance to go on schemes such as speed awareness courses if they are caught out.
"This can be great for some people as it will allow them to be educated on road safety for the first time since they passed their test at 17.
"I have spoken to people who have used this system and say it works really well but it is a case by case basis.
"People should understand though that it is not worth taking risks on the roads because you can end up having to be dealt with by the police but more importantly their actions could have devastating consequences."
The need for the changes can be summed up by an incident that rocked the area seven years ago.
Rebecca Casterton, 13, of Holly Road, Barton under Needwood, and Rebecca's 12-year-old best friend, Lauren Brooks, of Forest Road, Burton, lost their lives in a crash on January 20, 2006, on the southbound carriageway of the A38 near Clay Mills.
The pair were killed in an accident caused by Telford-based trucker Robert Murray, who had been distracted by his mobile phone.
He was handed a four-and-a-half year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving.
Rebecca's mother, Ruth Anslow said: "It makes me so frustrated and angry that even after all this time and after what happened, every single day I see people driving along talking on their mobiles.
"I urge them to use common sense and either wait until they can pull over or just ignore the call.
"The question should really be – is answering a call as important as someone's life?"
Driving while holding a mobile phone has been illegal since 2003.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said his group's surveys suggest that the majority of drivers see other drivers on the phone on most journeys.
"The current deterrent just isn't working," he said.
"Many drivers seem addicted to their phones and just can't resist looking at a text or tweet at the wheel.
"We need a concerted effort to crack this addiction with harsher penalties linked to an information and enforcement campaign.
"Ultimately it will take more cops in cars to get motorists to hang up behind the wheel."
However, Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said the problem was not with penalties but with enforcement.
"Our own research shows how dangerous using a mobile at the wheel can be," he said.
"Texting while driving impairs reactions more than being at the drink-drive limit or high on cannabis.
"However, the large number of motorists still using phones at the wheel is less about the size of penalties and more about the chance of being caught.
"The Department for Transport's own figures show that on two previous occasions when this law was tightened and fines increased the number of people offending initially dropped but then rapidly rose again."