Britons still text and drive

Britons still text and drive

Last year's penalties do little to deter drivers from texting while driving

British drivers are continuing to use their mobile phones behind the wheel, despite stricter penalties that were brought into force last year.

In a survey of 2000 people, the RAC Foundation found nearly half still regularly send messages while they are on the road.

Although one-fifth said they only read and send text messages when they are stuck in a jam, one in ten admitted to reading texts in moving traffic.

Only one in ten motorists said they turned off their phones or switched them to silent while they were in the car. The RAC said that failing to do this left drivers at risk of being distracted by their phone ringing or text message alerts.

The findings come exactly a year after the Government increased the penalties for talking or sending a text on a mobile phone while driving from £30 to £60. Three penalty points are also added to a driver’s license.

To mark the first anniversary and highlight the dangers, the Department for Transport has launched a £1.5m THINK! Campaign. An online game to accompany it will be available next month.

The Government department also published its own research, which, like the RAC’s, suggested drivers are not deterred by the new penalties. It said the figure for those prosecuted for using a mobile phone at the wheel had risen by a tenth in 2007 to 185,639 compared to 169,614 in 2006.

Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: “It's simple – driving and mobile phones don't mix. Using a mobile behind the wheel makes you four times more likely to have a crash and a phone call isn't worth that risk.”

“Too many people still put themselves and others in danger for the sake of a phone call. I hope the first anniversary of the tougher penalties for mobile phone use will remind all drivers to switch off before they drive off or go to voicemail and listen to their messages later.”