New research by Whatcar.com has found that millions of motorists still use a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel and that numbers are increasing.
In an online poll, 31% of Whatcar.com visitors admitted to making quick calls, while 15% say they regularly chat away. Six out of 10 of these regular users also admit to texting as they drive.
The 46% total figure represents more than 15 million motorists and is more than twice as high as the latest estimate from the Department for Transport, and 30 times the DfT's original approximation that use stood at just 1.5%.
The results also show attitudes to using a hand-held phone have worsened, despite the forthcoming threat of penalty points being introduced from the end of February and the original introduction of fixed fines in December 2003.
In 2004, 42% of motorists visiting Whatcar.com admitted using a hand-held phone as they drove, while in 2005 the figure was 43%.
Latest available figures from the Home Office show just 74,000 motorists were given fixed penalty fines in England and Wales in 2004 for using a mobile phone while driving, however - less than a quarter of one per cent of the 32 million motorists licensed to drive in Great Britain at that time.
What Car? group editor Steve Fowler said: 'You don’t have to drive far to see somebody using a mobile while driving – the problem is rife. The message that it’s dangerous clearly isn’t getting through and the low prosecution figures certainly suggest getting caught is unlikely.
‘There really is no excuse to be using a mobile at the wheel, especially with hands-free kits costing so little – much less than the cost of a fine.'
From February 27, motorists will face stiffer fines and the prospect of having their licences endorsed with three penalty points.
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