A quarter (25%) of drivers, of all ages – the equivalent of 10 million people – admitted in a recent study that they have illegally made or received calls behind the wheel, up from 24% in 2017.
The RAC explained that there was a positive behavioural shift from drivers months after harsher punishments for mobile phone use were introduced.
However, latest figures from their 2018 survey showed that bad habits have resurfaced amongst millennials, with nearly half of drivers aged 25-34 confessing to making or receiving calls with a mobile phone while behind the wheel. This is up seven percentage points on the year before.
Meanwhile, some 29 per cent of motorists aged 35-44 admitted they had used a phone to send texts, use social media and check their emails while driving, which is a 10 percentage point increase on the previous year.
The survey study was conducted with over 1,800 drivers for the annual RAC Report on Motoring.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said:
“While the introduction of tougher penalties for handheld phone use at the wheel was absolutely the right thing to do, we fear any benefits have run their course with this data showing illegal use is now rocketing among some groups of drivers.
“Following the introduction of stronger penalties in 2017, we saw a promising shift with some drivers changing their behaviour for the better and becoming compliant with the law.
“Sadly, that didn’t signal the start of a longer-term trend with drivers now seemingly returning to their old ways and putting themselves and millions of other road users at risk.”
Williams continued: “We also know from our research that in many cases motorists know using a handheld phone at the wheel is wrong, and we can see a clear downward trend in people who think it’s safe to do it.
“But the problem remains, despite the fact the figures around deaths on our roads where someone was found to be using a mobile phone are stark – official figures show there were 32 needless deaths in 2017, with the true figure where a phone played a part in a collision likely to be significantly higher.
“While we believe our data provides valuable evidence to policymakers and road safety professionals about where the issues with compliance with the law perhaps lie, we also need much more data about the extent of the problem which it appears is really no less commonplace now than it was in 2016.
“But the fact remains the change in penalties for illegal phone use while driving has, on its own, not shifted behaviour as much as we would have liked.
“There is still a huge job to do in communicating to drivers the dangers of continuing to mix driving with illegally using a mobile phone.”
Drivers must take notice of the risk they pose to themselves and other drivers by using a mobile phone behind the wheel. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that in 2017, 43 people were killed and 135 were injured in crashes in Britain, where a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor.
Read More: Be Phone Smart campaign website.
RAC Survey results
|Type of illegal use when using a handheld phone||2018 figure and change vs. 2017|
|Make and receive calls – while driving||25%, UP from 24%|
|Make and receive calls – engine on but stationary||39%, DOWN from 40%|
|Send texts, social media posts or use the internet – while driving||16%, UP from 13%|
|Send texts, social media posts or use the internet – engine on but stationary||33%, UP from 29%|
|Check texts, social media posts or use the internet – while driving||19%, UP from 18%|
|Check texts, social media posts or use the internet – engine on but stationary||40%, UP from 38%|
|Take photos or record video – while driving||14%, UP from 11%|
|Take photos or record video – engine on but stationary||22%, UP from 16%|
Source: representative sample of UK drivers from RAC Report on Motoring, sample size 1,808