New research by transport experts TRL shows almost half a million motorists used mobile phones while driving in 2014, with men, van drivers and young drivers the worst offenders.
Around 470,000 motorists used phones while driving - an offence punishable with a maximum fine of £1,000 if taken to court and £2,500 if driving a bus, coach, or heavy goods vehicle.
Out of the total driving population, TRL suggests almost 3% (2.7%) of van drivers were found to have used their mobile phones making them roughly twice as likely as the wider car driving population (1.3%) to commit the offence, while 5% of young drivers were found to have used mobiles.
A TRL spokesperson said its data would give ‘a greater understanding of who is using mobile phones while driving, and show how this can then be used to support future policy development’.
Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy and research, Neil Greig told Transport Network 'tackling mobile phone use must be a government priority’.
He added that in his opinion hands-free and Bluetooth devices were not safer alternatives.
‘Taking a call is still a major distraction from the task of driving. The horrendous figure for van users shows that companies must have clear and consistent mobile phone policies that are enforced. If using a phone while driving is against company policy then disciplinary action must follow,' he said.
He called for wider use of technology-based solutions, including smartphone apps that detect vehicle motion and speeds and shut off calling and texting functions.
‘Technology has created the problem, so it needs to come up with the answers. We have app and insurance software developers regularly coming in to show us their products. If we find one we like, we’ll be happy to brand it’.
Meanwhile, Norfolk CC is touring a pioneering mobile phone detection system, which monitors oncoming vehicles and sends evidence of mobile use to activate a flashing warning sign ahead.