close up of a businesswoman...

Drivers who use their phones at the wheel are increasingly coming under fire in new government plans. This follows a number of high-profile accidents caused by motorists using phones and research that suggests that those using phones could be more distracted than drivers on the drink-drive limit.

The latest proposal to toughen up on drivers caught phone-driving comes from the Labour party, which has pledged to hit offenders with one-year driving bans. Shadow roads minister, Richard Burden, has criticised the coalition government for not reacting to an increasing number of deaths caused by drivers using phones over each of the last five years.

Burden has claimed that six penalty points and an automatic one-year driving ban would be on the cards – matching the punishment for those caught drink driving – if Labour wins the next election. This follows an announcement last month from Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary saying that the government is considering doubling the penalty for phone-driving offenders from three to six penalty points.

Burden told the Sunday Times: "The penalties have got to be appropriate. Increasing the number of penalty points will be part of that and doubling it to six points sounds sensible. It needs to reflect the seriousness of the offence."

He continued: "driving up and down the motorway checking who is on their mobile phone doesn't feel like a priority job at the time. But if that person using that mobile then ploughs into another vehicle, we will all see why it should have been a priority."

The shadow roads minister also criticised the 12 per cent reduction in traffic police numbers from 2007-2012, with some forces seeing a drop of 44 per cent according to road safety charity, Brake.

These comments come just days after a driver was jailed for six years, after using two phones shortly before crashing into another car and killing the driver.