LEARNER drivers will be able to use motorways for the first time as part of a raft of new measures aimed at improving safety on the roads.

The proposals - announced by the UK Government - would allow learners to take a motorway driving lesson with an approved instructor in a dual controlled car, in a move ministers claim will improve both their and other road users' safety.

The plans also include an increase in penalty points from three to four for motorists caught using a mobile telephone behind the wheel, as well as a heftier fine, with penalties rising from £100 to £150.

HGV drivers would also receive six penalty points if caught using a mobile phone.

The moves have been welcomed by motoring charity RAC Foundation, who said the focus on learner drivers is an important one.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "One in five young drivers has an accident within six months of passing their test so putting the learning process under the spotlight has to be a good thing.

"Mile for mile motorways are our safest roads but can be intimidating places for novice drivers. Exploring ways of letting learners have controlled access to them is welcome.

"The important thing is the official seal of approval provided by the approved driving instructor who will accompany them down the slip-road. This is definitely not the time to have mum or dad in the passenger seat."

A series of consultations on the proposals will take place in the New Year.

The government is also looking to "strengthen" the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) for learner motorcyclists, as well as introducing a £2m research programme looking at driver education.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to improve that record.

"Today we are delivering common sense proposals that balance tougher penalties for dangerous drivers with practical steps to help youngsters and other more vulnerable groups stay safe on our roads."

He argued that using a mobile phone at the wheel is "reckless and costs lives", adding: "I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt.

"The message is clear: keep your hands on the wheel, not your phone. If you keep taking calls while at the wheel, you could end up being banned from the road."

The fixed penalty for using a mobile phone increased from £60 to £100 in 2013.

The use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014, the government said.

Figures also showed a total of 1,775 people were killed and 22,807 people were seriously injured in reported road accidents in 2014.

Edmund King, president of motoring group the AA, said the majority of drivers "will welcome" the proposals.

"This epidemic of hand-held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives.

"Three quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones on some or most journeys, with one quarter seeing it on every journey, according to our polls," he added.

The announcements follow plans revealed last month to introduce a deposit for learner drivers which is returned to them if they pass their test in a bid to encourage them to take their test when they are ready.