Activists are asking drivers to switch off their mobiles or hide them away in the boot in a bid to increase road safety.
The charity Brake is also urging people who make calls to refuse to carry on the conversation if the person they called is driving. The Association of Chief Police Officers is backing the drive as Road Safety Week gets under way.
Brake has teamed up with Specsavers and Romex to conduct research that found 62% of children between the ages of seven and 11 say they have been in cars where the driver used a mobile. A further 79% say they have seen motorists on the phone near school or their homes.
The survey also found mobile use while driving is to blame for people racking up penalty points - which carrycar insurance implications - with 575,000 British drivers having had them slapped on for doing it or being distracted in other ways.
Of that total, it found, 6.5% have six or more points.
Other research shows the risk of having an accident is heightened by any activity that divides a driver's time, Brake said, as 98% of us can't do that without a dip in performance. This covers phone use as well as smoking and eating, it said.
The RAC's head of external affairs Pete Williams said: "Turning off your mobile phone if it is not connected to a hands-free device is the right advice to remove any temptation to answer or use your phone. But it is not illegal to use your phone if you have a hands-free kit installed in your car and such devices are used safely by millions of UK drivers on a daily basis. Holding a phone and talking or, for that matter texting, when driving is adding a massive physical distraction and impediment to being fully in control of your vehicle.
"The RAC believes that the issue is about enforcement to get the message across to drivers who persist in using a hand-held phone while driving. Our own research has revealed that 21% of motorists admit to using a hand-held phone when at the wheel which amounts to more than seven million drivers on the road and yet only 575,000 drivers have been prosecuted for doing so. We also know from the RAC's Report on Motoring that other people using hand-held mobile phones is the biggest stress factor (77%) for drivers ahead of tailgating (74%) and road rage (64%).
"But with funds for enforcement decreasing all the time we perhaps need to talk less of fines and more about how we create a united campaign that aims to make speaking, texting and using social media on a hand-held mobile as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving."
Julie Townsend, Brake's deputy chief executive, added that nowadays "being constantly connected is the norm".
There are "enormous benefits" to new tech gadgets, she said, but they are "posing dangerous temptations to drivers to divert their concentration away from the critical task at hand, often putting our most vulnerable road users in danger".
She added: "Many people who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are succumbing to using their phone and other distractions while driving, oblivious that the effect can be similar and the consequences just as horrific."
Copyright Press Association 2013