A worrying shift in attitudes to mobile phone use behind the wheel has caused an “alarming” rise in the number of people making calls, texting and even recording videos illegally when they should be paying attention to the road.
According to findings published as part of the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016 released today, the number of drivers who own up to using a handheld mobile phone has increased from 8% in 2014 to 31% today.
Additionally, there has been a rise in drivers sending a text, email or posting on social media, with the figure increasing from 7% two years ago to 19% today.
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But it is not just texts and calls that people are making when they should be focusing on the road, as 14% admitted to taking photos and videos with their phone – something which can cause a disturbing increase in the risk of accidents and crashes.
It is thought that as many as 11 million motorists could now be making or receiving a call while driving and an astonishing five million taking photos or videos.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “It is alarming to see that some drivers have clearly relaxed their attitudes to the risks associated with this behaviour but more worryingly is the increase in the percentage of motorists who actually admit to using a handheld device when driving.”
The rise could be down to a shift in attitudes, with the proportion of people who feel it is acceptable to take a quick call on a handheld phone doubling from 7% in 2014 to 14% in 2016.
Alongside this, there has been a rise in the percentage of drivers who feel it is safe to check social media posts on their phone when in stationary traffic from 14% in 2014 to 20% in 2016.
It is these attitudes which the RAC has said should become the main focus of efforts to make the use of handheld mobiles phones at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
Mr Williams said: “The RAC is also calling on the Government to invest in a high-profile awareness campaign to highlight the danger of using a handheld phone at the wheel and to drive home the message that it simply won’t be tolerated.”
Drivers currently risk a penalty of a minimum £100 fine and three points on their licence for using their mobile phone behind the wheel.
But these could be poised to increase after a Government consultation, with the minimum fine likely to rise to £150 and the points penalty to go up to four for non-HGV drivers and to six for HGV drivers.
However, many drivers believe that harsher penalties will fail to deter people from illegally using their phone when driving, according to the results of a separate poll.
The RAC has said it would welcome these changes, while adding that they need to be backed up with a rise in roads policing officers to help enforce them.
Mr Williams said: “With compliance on some traffic laws including the use of handheld mobile phones seemingly getting worse, the RAC calls for an end to cuts to dedicated roads policing and urges the Government and chief constables to give greater priority to enforcement of road traffic laws.”
Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.