The number of UK motorists who admit to answering mobile phone calls and sending text messages while on the road has tripled in a year,according to the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring. The number of drivers taking calls on their mobile phone was up from 8% in 2009 to 28% this year, while text messaging usage was up from 11% to 31%.
The motoring organisation's research revealed that an average 23-minute car journey will see the driver's mobile phone ringing with a call or beeping with an SMS text message at least once. 53% of motorists admitted they'd probably take their eyes off the road to see who a call is from, with 45% saying they'd look look to see who a text is from.
Figures from the Department of Transport show that 509 people were hurt in accidents caused by drivers distracted using their mobile phone last year, with 16% seriously injured or killed. However, 47% of drivers believe texting on the road does not divert their attention from driving.
Adrian Tink, RAC Motoring Strategist, said "It’s extremely concerning that the use of mobile phones for texting and calling has risen in the past year. Taking your eye off the road, just for a second, to read an alert or check who a call came from can have potentially fatal results. This steep rise in mobile phone usage at the wheel could potentially be set to continue as more and more people embrace smart phone technology. RAC is calling for existing laws around mobile phone usage to be strictly enforced and for the government to consider widening safety campaigns to educate motorists about the dangers of using a mobile phone at the wheel."
The RAC also calculated the impact of mobile phone distractions on driving performance and concentration. A motorist glancing at their phone for two seconds while driving at 30mph would would be distracted from the road for a distance of 27 metres. At 70mph, this increases to 63 metres, equivalent to the length of six double-decker buses. Adding typical stopping distances means a driver at motorway speeds could travel for 159 metres before their vehicle stopped.
The RAC recommends switching mobile phones to 'silent' or turning them off when driving. If you need to keep your phone on, it says you should either use a hands-free device or pull over to a safe place and turn off the engine before making or receiving calls.