Use of mobile phones at the wheel still rife

Ninety-five per cent of motorists regularly see other drivers fiddling with handheld mobile phones at the wheel whilst in standstill traffic.  

A survey of more than 2,000 drivers carried out by the RAC reveals that illegal mobile phone use is still rife, with 64% of motorists saying that in the last hour they spent driving they saw at least one driver committing the offence. Of those, six per cent claimed they saw between five and seven drivers breaking the law, whereas 36% witnessed one or two. Only 26% of motorists surveyed said they did not see anyone doing this.

Sixteen per cent of motorists questioned said on every journey they make they see others looking down as if they are interacting with their phones while stopped at traffic lights. The remaining 84% (of the 95%) who said they see this, do so less frequently.

But, even by their own admission, three in 10 motorists say they have used a handheld phone at the wheel; 29% claim they do it occasionally whilst the other one per cent show utter contempt for the current law, which came into force 13 years ago, saying they use their handheld phones on most journeys.

The main reason cited by 61% of respondents for occasional phone use at the wheel was to make a short call. Half (49%) of those admitting to using a handheld phone when driving said they had checked email or text messages, and a similar percentage (47%) had sent a text message.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Thirteen years after the introduction of the current law forbidding use of a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle, this behaviour is far from being stamped out. In fact, the results of our research suggests the problem has got worse rather than better.

“The lack of a high profile advertising campaign similar to the ones targeting drink-drivers and speeders has not helped, nor has the decline in the number of roads police officers as there is very little fear among offenders of being caught. As a society we need to change drivers’ thinking to make them understand the serious consequences their decision to use their handheld phones can have. Using a handheld phone should be regarded as being as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.

“There seems to be an unfortunate perception that a quick look at a phone at the traffic lights is okay. However, it is a significant distraction which at best may hold up other road users when a driver doesn’t notice that the lights have changed, and at worst may increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle.”

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