One in six motorists have admitted to taking or made a call without using hands-free systems, according to a YouGov poll.
The poll, commissioned by legal firm Simpson Millar LLP found that 89% of GB adults online recognise that there is some sort of penalty for using a mobile phone at the wheel, but just under half (47%) know the current penalty. It is illegal to use any hand-held mobile device whilst driving even when the car is stationary in traffic.
Motorists currently face three penalty points on their driving licence and a £100 fine.
Many motorists still dispute the law with 18% of those who have used social media at the wheel agreeing that they can check or update social media and drive safely at the same time. 46% of them believe that accessing social media does not cause a problem if they are stationary in traffic. 8% of all GB adults actually admit to using social media behind the wheel and 26% of those admit that the desire to keep in touch with people is one of the main reasons they have flouted the law.
Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), said: “Any task that involves holding a device, looking at it, and interacting with it during driving will adversely affect driving performance. We recently found that between 10-30% of road accidents in the EU are at least partly caused by distraction, and social media is an increasing risk in this area.
“Obviously some people, some of the time, value their social connectivity more than they value their safety and the safety of others. It is this perspective that should be targeted.”
If the latest government plans are approved, offending motorists will face four penalty points (six points for HGV drivers) and a £150 fine. Most first-time offenders will still be offered Driver Awareness courses to change their behaviour.
“A combination of education and enforcement is required to change drivers’ understanding of not only the risks involved, but the social unacceptability of being distracted at the wheel”, says Helman.
Julie Robertson, partner, head of motoring offences at Simpson Millar, added: “Whilst social media has become a large part of our everyday lives, it is important for drivers not to engage in social media activities or use their telephone whilst driving due to the dangers this can cause.
“Using a mobile telephone whilst driving carries three penalty points. However, if the standard of a motorist’s driving is compromised, a prosecution for driving without due care and attention or, worse still, dangerous driving can result. This can result in someone potentially facing the loss of their driving licence, livelihood or even their liberty just because they prioritised using their phone to talk, check emails or to access social media over driving.
“Drivers must educate themselves of the dangers of distracted driving, but also be aware of their legal rights when they do find themselves in trouble.”