Brake is renewing its call to ban hands-free kits after a Brake and Direct Line survey revealed that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to using the devices when driving.
The road safety charity says that, while the use of hand-held phones by drivers has dropped, hands-free use has risen to nearly four in 10 (38%), from one in five (22%) in 2006.
Brake believes that the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held.
In reality, it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones, with reactions 30% slower than driving at the UK drink drive limit, and 50% slower than under normal conditions.
Brake and Direct Line's survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers (30%) admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) - more than four in 10 (44%) - doing so.
Smartphone apps are an additional threat, with one in eight (12%) drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than one in 10 (9%) in 2006.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Using a hands-free phone while driving can end and ruin lives just as surely as using a phone hand-held, and no phone call or text is worth a life.
“The Government needs to act now to stop this risky behaviour. We all need to take responsibility and put our phones safely out of reach and earshot while behind the wheel, and refuse to speak on the phone to others who are driving."
Read next week’s Fleet News for further analysis and comment, as well as the legal risk faced by fleets using hands-free devices.