Illegal use of mobile phones at the wheel soars to ‘epidemic proportions’

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A report released by the RAC describes the illegal use of mobile phones as at ‘epidemic proportions’, as an estimated 11 million motorists admit to making or receiving a call without a hands-free system while driving within the last 12 months. A further 5 million say they’ve taken photos or videos whilst driving.

The Report on Motoring 2016 reveals that attitudes toward mobile phone use whilst driving have relaxed in the last two years. Since 2014, the proportion of people who feel it’s acceptable to take a call at the wheel has doubled from 7% to 14%.

So why do people take calls, despite knowing they shouldn’t? 23% said it was for an emergency, and 21% said they needed information for their journey – but 12% said it was habit, and 8% ‘because everyone else does it’!

Those who felt it acceptable and ‘safe’ to check social media whilst in traffic or at traffic lights has also risen from 14% to 20%, and correspondingly, those who feel it is ‘never safe’ to take a quick call at the wheel fell from 84% to 78%.

These are attitudes, but how have behaviours changed? Well, these figures of course rely on people actually admitting on what they get up to; but 14% of drivers admitted to taking photos or filming videos whilst driving, and 22% to doing so whist stationary in traffic. For younger drivers in lower age brackets, 36% of 17-24 year olds admitted to doing so whilst driving, and 26% aged 25-44!

Yet it seems drivers are concerned about others using mobiles. Two fifths of motorists interviewed rank this as one of their top four concerns whilst driving – making it the biggest motoring angst of 2016.

And rightly so. Evidence shows that using a mobile phone is a major impairment to driving, both physically and mentally. The Transport Research Laboratory found that that those using a phone at the wheel had reaction times 30% slower than those over the drink drive limit. Accident statistics show that in 2014, mobile phone use was a ‘contributing factor’ in 21 fatal accidents, 84 serious, and 387 slight.

The RAC survey was taken by almost 2,000 people, and is in it’s 28th year. Do you believe it’s ever acceptable to use a phone at the wheel? Let us know in the comments below.

Author Lex Barber

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