40% of drivers say causing an accident wouldn't stop them using a phone at the wheel

40% of drivers say causing an accident wouldn't stop them using a phone at the wheel
The dangers of using a handheld phone at the wheel are still not resonating with a worrying number of drivers, new RAC research suggests.

Despite positive changes including the introduction of tougher penalties, a problem of “Herculean” proportions still exists – with 40% of drivers claiming even the thought of causing an accident wouldn’t be enough to make them put their mobiles away for good.

The RAC’s Be Phone Smart Campaign encourages drivers to make a quick online pledge to stop using their device when behind the wheel, as statistics continue to underline the obvious dangers.

When asked whether causing an accident through illegal phone use would make them kick the habit for good, almost two-thirds (60%) agreed it would – a figure which RAC campaign spokesman Pete Williams thinks should be higher.

“It seems reasonable to expect that causing an accident while using a handheld phone would be enough to force every driver to change their ways,” Mr Williams said.

READ MORE: New penalties fail to deter illegal phone users

Other reasons which would make drivers immediately reconsider their use of a phone at the wheel include being caught, or the threat of being caught by a police officer (55% and 54% respectively); knowing somebody who had been the victim of a phone-related accident (54%), and causing a near-miss (53%).

The boredom associated with sitting in traffic appears to be a high risk factor for many drivers, with 57% of those who reach for their phone most likely to do it during these periods – which is still illegal.

Since March 1, motorists have faced stricter penalties for illegal handheld use with both the fine (£200) and number of points (six) handed out, doubling.

It seems law enforcement is likely to be the most effective way of influencing lasting change. While 86% of those who admit to having used a phone while driving say they could be convinced into quitting, 25% of respondents said the police would be the most important group for making it happen.

Other key influencers include family members (18%), road safety groups (18%), the government (8%) and friends (6%).

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Pete Williams said: “Handheld phone use has become rooted in the behaviour of some drivers and it is going to take a herculean effort to change their mindset.

“No single action will achieve this and we need to educate a combination of education so drivers understand the dangers, encourage them to give the habit up, and combine this with rigorous enforcement of the law, so those breaking the law can expect to get caught.”

While the mission of eliminating handheld phone use behind the wheel is clearly a huge one, there are positive things happening, the RAC points out.

Alongside tougher punishments, police are undertaking far more high-profile crackdowns on roads up and down the UK. Cutting edge technology too, is playing its part in making the task more achievable.

“We are pleased that one of the most widely used smartphone operating systems, Apple’s iOS used on iPhones, is about to have an update that will offer a ‘drive safe’ mode,” Mr Williams added.

“This will join a range of apps already available for Android, such as Agent, which encourage smarter phone use in the car or cab.”

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.