A significant number of UK motorists continue to flout the law when it comes to the use of mobile phones when in charge of a vehicle.
New figures published by the Transport Research Laboratory have revealed 1.1 per cent of road users in England and Scotland were observed holding a mobile phone in their hand while driving in 2014, while 0.5 per cent were actively having a conversation with the phone to their ear.
Overall, this equates to 477,000 vehicle owners and is a staggering figure given the fact the use of mobile phones without hands-free technology has been against the law in the UK for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, a significant proportion of drivers across England and Scotland were also recorded using hand-held mobiles while in a stationary traffic (2.3 per cent).
Responding to the research, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has argued more now needs to be done to promote awareness surrounding the dangers of mobile phone use for drivers, as well as reminding people of the sanctions they could face.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The results are very disappointing but not at all surprising. Campaigners routinely talk about the inherent dangers of the distraction caused by mobile phone usage, but drivers never believe they will be caught.
“Campaigns run by Think! and the Department for Transport need to be revived and invigorated with stronger messages for new drivers and van users. Mobile phone usage at the wheel can kill – there’s no two ways about it.”
He added that several studies have also been carried out in recent years examining the impact of the use of hands-free kits on the safety of drivers, with the results revealing that while these devices may be less distracting and dangerous than not using them, they too could hold some serious risks for users in comparison to simply not using a mobile at all.
As a result, IAM is now calling for a greater focus on the impact of in-vehicle technology on road safety in the UK, with the growth in popularity of devices like smartphones, tablets and iPods or other music devices meaning more items than ever are now being used regularly in cars.
Mr Greig concluded: “Tackling mobile phone usage must be a government priority for 2015. People must have the fear of being caught increased as we believe this is the only viable deterrent, but that needs an increase in visible policing.”
Individuals found guilty of driving while using a mobile phone can face an on-the-spot fine of GBP 100, as well as receiving three points on their licence.
Should a case go to court, however, the penalties imposed on those found guilty of this offence can be even more severe, with a maximum fine of GBP 1,000 and the potential for individuals to be disqualified from driving.