A new survey by road safety charity Brake has revealed that one in eight drivers admits to using handheld mobile phones at the wheel, despite it being made illegal a decade ago.
The charity is also calling for a total ban of hands-free phone kits, arguing it’s the phone conversation that is distracting not using the phone itself.
Studies have shown that the chances of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones.
Reactions of those on a call whilst driving are 30 per cent slower than driving at the UK drink drive limit, and 50 per cent slower than normal conditions.
Of those surveyed by Brake and Direct Line, 30 per cent admitted they had sent or read messages while driving. The worst age group was the 18-25 year olds, with almost half confessing to this fact.
Using a hands-free phone while driving can end and ruin lives just as surely as using a phone hand-held, and no phone call or text is worth a life.
More worrying is the fact that smartphone app usage is up some 12 per cent from 2006, with over a tenth of UK drivers more concerned about checking social media accounts, emails or playing angry birds than focussing on where they’re going.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: "It is shocking that, ten years after the ban, one in eight drivers continues to flout the law and put lives in danger by using a hand-held mobile at the wheel. Just as worrying is the widespread belief that using a hands-free kit is a safe alternative. Don't kid yourself: it's not.
“Using a hands-free phone while driving can end and ruin lives just as surely as using a phone hand-held, and no phone call or text is worth a life.
“The government needs to act now to stop this risky behaviour. We all need to take responsibility and put our phones safely out of reach and earshot while behind the wheel, and refuse to speak on the phone to others who are driving."
Rob Miles, director of Motor at Direct Line, added: "The fact that using a hands-free mobile while driving could be more dangerous than drink driving will understandably come as a shock to many drivers who currently use a hands-free device to comply with the law.
“The potential for casualties from mobile phone distraction is frightening. Hopefully as drivers become more aware of the dangers inherent in the use of mobile phones whilst driving, it will become as much of a social taboo as drink driving has become in recent years."