The number of people who use mobile phones behind the wheel in Britain has quadrupled over the last two years:
The number of people who use mobile phones behind the wheel in Britain has quadrupled over the last two years as half of drivers confessed to using one while in stationary traffic. Calling, texting or checking social media on handheld phones has reached "epidemic proportions", according to the major RAC research.
A third of drivers have used a portable mobile to make a call while driving and a fifth admitted texting or emailing while on the move. The RAC claims the use of handheld mobiles was "the biggest road safety concern among motorists today".
In the past decade at least 205 people have been killed in Britain in crashes involving drivers being distracted by using their handheld phones, according to Department for Transport figures.
In 2014, 492 accidents were blamed on phone use, with 21 people killed and 84 suffering serious injuries.
RAC spokesperson Peter Williams said: "Sadly, motorists' attitudes to using handheld mobile phones while driving appear to be relaxing rather than tightening.
"There is clear evidence that the illegal use of handheld phones by drivers to talk, text, tweet, post, browse and even video call is, if anything, on the increase.
"This is due to the combination of our constantly growing addiction to ever more sophisticated smartphones, coupled with there being little or no fear of being caught in the act as a result of declining numbers of roads policing officers.
"It is sadly the case that every day most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones when in control of a vehicle – a sight which should be a thing of the past.
"Add to this the failure of successive governments to invest in a public awareness campaign to make handheld mobile phone use at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving and you can see why this illegal driving behaviour is now at epidemic proportions," he said.
But with no detection from automatic cameras and offenders typically 'escaping' with just three penalty points and a fine or going on an awareness course, the RAC wants tougher penalties, more traffic officers to enforce the law, and an awareness campaign to make the offence as "socially unacceptable as drink-driving", which carries an automatic ban and up to six months in jail.
Road safety charity Brake has called for fines to be increased to a minimum of £500 and for offenders to receive six points on their licence, meaning they could be banned from driving if they are caught twice.
Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has also called for the three-point penalty to be doubled. National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said it wanted a blend of "education and enforcement", to stop phone use while driving.
"We run national operations and forces take action locally. We will continue to stress the dangerous consequences, and arrest offenders but we also need people to take responsibility for their behaviour behind the wheel and exert some social pressure on family and friends who take this risk," she said.
The survey of 1,714 UK motorists for the RAC's annual Report on Motoring found the number of drivers who admitted to using a handheld mobile phone while driving increased to 31 per cent, compared with eight per cent in 2014.
The figures also show that 20 per cent of drivers think it is acceptable to check social media on their phone when in stationary traffic, compared to 14 per cent in 2014.
Fourteen per cent admitted they had taken videos or photographs with their phones while driving.
In January 2016, figures showed the number of motorists fined for driving while on the phone had fallen to 30,000 compared with 123,000 in 2011.
The study by the RAC also uncovered that: •48 per cent of drivers admitted using handhelds while in stationary traffic;
•31 per cent had used one to make a call while driving;
•19 per cent had sent a text, email or posted on social media such as Facebook or Twitter while moving, rising to 37 per cent in stationary traffic;
•22 per cent had taken a photograph or video while in stationary traffic, and 14 per cent had done so in moving traffic; and
•41 per cent of drivers claimed mobile phone use by other road users was their biggest safety concern.
A Government spokesperson said: "We have some of the safest roads in the world and it is totally unacceptable for motorists to endanger lives by using handheld mobile phones while driving.
"Offenders involved in road accidents while using a mobile phone already face serious offences such as causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry a substantial prison term. We have also proposed tougher penalties for mobile phone use to act as a deterrent and ensure it is not tolerated in society."