A new report has revealed that one in five drivers aged 17-24 admit to making or receiving video calls when driving, and a further 1 in 10 say they play games on their phone when behind the wheel.
The 2020 RAC Report on Motoring found that younger drivers are more than twice as likely to say they make or receive video calls while driving – on average 8% of all UK drivers say they do this, with the figure rising to 13% among those aged 25 to 44.
Just under one-in-10 drivers aged 17 to 24 (9%) say they play games on their phones while driving, making them three-times more likely to do this compared to the average UK driver.
Other drivers’ use of handheld phones is the second biggest overall motoring-related concern identified in the research, after the state of local roads – a third of all UK drivers surveyed (32%) say the issue concerns them and strikingly nearly eight-in-10 (79%) now want to see camera technology introduced to catch drivers acting illegally.
It also found that 29% of drivers of all ages in 2020 say they make and receive calls on handheld phones while driving, that’s 5% more than last year and the highest proportion since 2016. While younger drivers are still more likely to do so (42%, down from 51% last year), those in the 25 to 44 age group are also statistically more likely to break the law in this way (32% admit to doing so, almost unchanged on 2019’s figure of 33%).
RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Our figures highlight what many drivers already know – that the problem of illegal phone use at the wheel has far from disappeared. While there’s been a reduction in some elements of this dangerous activity, more people say they are making and taking calls now than at any point since 2016, shortly before tougher penalties were introduced.
“And the rise in the popularity of video calls means this type of communication represents a new, clear and present danger on the UK’s roads in 2020.
“Our findings from 2016 were a watershed moment which led to the UK Government calling for people to make illegal mobile phone use while driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. The fact drivers still state it’s their second biggest motoring concern of all shows that more progress still needs to be made here.
“It’s also the case that the bar to convict somebody under the current offence of using a handheld mobile phone while driving is high, making it difficult for the police to enforce. Any mobile phone activity that doesn’t involve telecommunications, such as checking text messages, recording a video or changing pre-downloaded music, is also, bizarrely, not covered by the set mobile phone law, although drivers could be convicted for not being in proper control of their vehicles.
“So, it’s significant that motorists are united in their desire to see camera-based technology, like that already in use in other countries, introduced on our roads to catch drivers who risk everyone’s safety by breaking the law in this way. If the behaviour of those who continue to think it’s safe to use a handheld phone while driving upwards of a tonne of metal is ever going to change, they need to believe there’s a reasonable chance of being caught.”
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake said: “Any use of a phone behind the wheel is dangerous but the fact that such a large proportion of young people admit to making video calls and playing games when driving really beggars belief.
“We need clarity in the law around phone use behind the wheel, and we need it now. The Government must implement a full ban on phone use when driving, including hands-free, to make the dangers crystal clear to the public and to crack-down on this reckless behaviour. The police must also be provided with the right tools and investment to enforce the roads effectively.
“In the wrong hands, a car is a lethal weapon and even a moment’s distraction from the road can have catastrophic consequences. More than 75 people are killed on UK roads every day and with driver distraction levels seemingly on the rise, the Government must step in and act, now.”