More than one million drivers have admitted to using their phones behind the wheel on every journey they made in the past 12 months; further reinforcing how the illegal use of mobile phones is at epidemic proportions and requires government action.
Research carried out on in-vehicle distraction by Brake and insurer Direct Line revealed that 3% of drivers, equating to 1.2 million drivers across the UK, had a conversation or messaged on a hand-held mobile device while driving on every journey they took in the past 12 months.
The report also found that more than one in six drivers (16% or 6.6 million UK licence holders) broke the law by using their phone while driving at some point over the past year; that’s despite tougher penalties having come into play three years ago that mean drivers caught using their phone behind the wheel face the minimum of a £200 fine and six penalty points.
The research comes six months after MPs from the House of Commons’ Transport Committee published a report saying the practice of using a hand-held mobile phone or other device while driving “is still troublingly widespread and can have catastrophic consequences”. They also called for the Government to look at introducing tougher penalties for all mobile phone usage behind the wheel – including banning hands-free devices, starting first with public sector drivers.
The new report from Brake and Direct Line shows there is driver support for such a move. In fact, two-thirds of drivers believe that the Government should act to further limit in-vehicle distraction and three-quarters of drivers stated that mobile phone manufacturers should do more to stop phones being used while driving.
The report also found that more than eight in 10 drivers think there are more in-vehicle distractions now than five years ago and that three-quarters believe that others on the road are more distracted now than they were five years ago.
In response to the latest findings, Brake has reiterated calls for the Government to tackle in-vehicle distraction and the issue of phone use behind the wheel, and added that it wants to see an urgent focus on improving enforcement and a consultation on extending the ban on hand-held mobile phone use to include hands-free.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake ,said: “When you’re behind the wheel, it only takes a moment’s distraction to cause devastation. This report reveals the shocking extent of the distraction on our roads with over a million drivers admitting to using their phones behind the wheel on every journey. We need the Government to take note of these findings and act to tackle in-vehicle distraction now.
“It’s positive to see drivers, themselves, acknowledge the increasing issue of distraction on the roads and that they give their backing to calls for the Government to tackle this issue. As a first step, we want the Government to consult on the use of hands-free phones behind the wheel, with the evidence clearly pointing towards the need for a ban.”