1.6% of drivers using handheld mobiles at the wheel
A new DfT study says that in 2014 "1.6% of all drivers in England and Scotland were observed using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving."
The 1.6% figure for England was slightly higher than the 1.4% seen in 2009 when the study was last carried out.
The report says that "drivers were more likely to be observed with a mobile phone in their hand than holding it to their ear."
Figures were also given for seat belt usage with a minority 1.8% of car drivers not wearing them across England and Wales. This rose to 4.7% for all drivers.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
“These figures are a worry. In 2013 the use of a mobile at the wheel was a factor in 22 fatal accidents and this is likely to be underreporting of the true figure.
“Research for us shows that texting whilst driving impairs reactions more than being at the drink drive limit.
“The disproportionate number of van drivers using mobiles appears to highlight the time pressures many are under and their likely use of mobile devices to check pick up and drop off destinations.
“The big concern is that with more and more technological and visual distractions in our lives and in our cars the risks will increase.
“The study also shows a persistent minority of people still not wearing seat belts. The consequences can be lethal. A fifth of car occupants who died on Britain’s roads in 2013 had not belted up. It is particularly worrying that the proportion of children wearing belts has dropped as this could be a reflection of parental behaviour.”
In 2009 an RAC Foundation-commissioned report from TRL showed that texting whilst driving slowed drivers reactions times by as much as being at the drink-drive limit.
The DfT study outlines the law regarding the use of mobile devices at the wheel:
"In December 2003, legislation was introduced making it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving or riding a motor vehicle on the road. Drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving may be issued with a fixed penalty notice which will result in three penalty points on the driving licence and a fine of £100. If a case goes to court, the driver or rider may be disqualified from driving or riding.
"Drivers or riders can use hands-free phones, sat navs and 2-way radios when driving or riding. However, if the police think the driver or rider is distracted and not in control of their vehicle they could still get stopped and penalised."
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Notes to editors:
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users. The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.
The RAC Foundation is a registered charity, number 1002705.