Four in ten mobile phone users are breaking the law by using their phone while driving, according to a survey by which.co.uk.*
A third of those questioned (33 per cent) have illegally made or received a call while driving in the last 12 months. A third (32 per cent) have read or sent a text message while driving – also against the law.
However, motorists seem to be clear on the penalties for breaking the law. In a separate survey of 2,596 Which? online panel members, nine out of ten were aware that the fine for using a mobile without a hands-free kit when driving was increased to £60 and three penalty points in February.
Driving is categorised as any time an engine is running and so includes being stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
However, there is confusion about how the law applies. Two fifths of the Which? members surveyed thought motorists were never allowed to use a mobile phone without a hands-free kit while driving, but only one in ten knew that drivers can use a mobile while driving to call emergency numbers 999 or 112. The law allows these calls to be made at the wheel if it is impractical or unsafe to pull over.
Richard Headland, Which? motoring editor, said: ‘Although people seem to be aware of the higher penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel, many either don’t understand or don’t obey the revised law.
‘The penalties for using a handheld phone when driving are now stiffer, but to be effective the government must change driver behaviour through better education as well as enforcement.’
* In May 2007, 628 people with a mobile phone were asked about their mobile phone use while driving in the last year. A total of 41.7 per cent had used their phones while driving either to make or receive a call without using a hands-free set, or to send or receive a text message.