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Many British motorists unsure of phone use laws

An RAC survey of 1,526 motorists has suggested that many people don't know the laws they should be following on the road, especially around phone use.

Motorists were also clueless on other illegal 'bad habits', including tailgating, which is a problem ingenie drivers often face because they observe speed limits. Worryingly, 84% of drivers questioned about stopping distance at 70mph couldn't remember it's 24 car lengths - with half of respondents thinking it was 10 car lengths or less. That's a potentially FATAL mistake.

But it's phone use that shows the most shocking results - because drivers just don't seem to accept that it's a dangerous problem. The report found that 61% believed it was legal to text while sitting in traffic, with 53% even going so far as to say it's SAFE to text in traffic or at red lights.

Motorists are 4 times more likely to crash if they use a phone while driving because their reaction time slows by around 50%. According to the RAC report this is an even bigger problem for young drivers: when using a phone, they can spend 400% more time with their eyes off the road.

So what IS illegal?

Phone use laws

And yet...

75% of motorists reported that they regularly see other drivers using mobile phones - but only 8% admit to being one of those 'other drivers'.

Just like young drivers who think overconfidence is a cause of crashes but claim to be better at driving than their mates, Britain's more mature drivers also need a reality check.

Is it time for harsher penalties?

The punishment for using a phone while driving is currently three penalty points and a £100 fine, with a £1,000 fine possible if convicted in court. Drink driving carries a year-long ban, and statistics from the Transport Research Laboratory show that calling and texting could actually be more distracting than alcohol – so why is it still seen as more acceptable by both motorists and the law?

The Alliance of British Drivers is among organisations calling for a year-long ban for drivers caught using their phone. There is also currently government talk around increasing the penalty to 6 points - which would mean a ban for any driver caught within two years of passing their test. A severe punishment, but it's past time to make drivers view phone use in the same way they see drink driving.

No call or text is ever worth someone’s life. Think about the last text you received. Would you pay to read it with 5 years in prison and a lifetime of regret?

Honor Clement-Hayes

By Honor Clement-Hayes

Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .