Nearly half of drivers are putting lives on the line by chatting on their phones at the wheel, according to a survey by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line.
Almost half admit risking their own and others’ safety by chatting on a phone while driving, of which two in three flout the law by using a hand-held phone, which has been illegal since 2003.
A huge proportion talk on their phone at the wheel at least once a week, suggesting phone addiction is getting the better of many.
Brake and Direct Line are launching a campaign urging drivers to ‘drive smart’ by putting their phones out of sight and out of mind while driving.
They are warning that using a hands-free or hand-held phone at the wheel can lengthen reaction times to a similar extent to drink driving, significantly increasing the risk of a devastating crash.
Unlike many other types of deadly risk-taking on roads, male and female drivers, young and old, are almost equally guilty of phone use at the wheel, showing widespread misunderstanding of the dangers.
Men are slightly more likely to chat on a phone than women and young drivers are slightly more likely than older drivers.
But far more young drivers than older drivers break the law by using a hand-held phone.
Young drivers are also far more likely than older drivers to use their phones to text, email or surf the web at the wheel.
A horrifying 44 per cent of young drivers admit texting at the wheel, compared to 27 per cent of older drivers, while 21 per cent of young drivers email, go online or use apps.
Julie Townsend of Brake said: “Use a phone wile driving and you are taking a horrendous risk with your own life and the lives of others.
“Many drivers who wouldn’t dream of drink-driving are using phones while driving, oblivious that the effect on your reaction times can be similar.
“We’re urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important. If you need to use your phone urgently, pull over somewhere safe first: it’s as simple as that.
“We are also calling on the government to do more to tackle phone use at the wheel, including banning hands-free phones and bringing in far stiffer penalties.”