More drivers are risking car crashes and criminal records, not to mention a huge hike in their car insurance premiums, by using their mobile phones behind the wheel, according to research.
The Department of Transport said the proportion of drivers making calls without a hands-free device rose by 27% from 1.1% to 1.4% between September 2008 and November 2009, while the proportion of lorry and van drivers increased 18% from 2.2% to 2.6%.
Separate findings showed motorist reaction times slow down significantly when using a phone, raising the odds of accidents.
Professor Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation director, said 16 fatal accidents were linked to mobile phone use in 2008.
"This is very worrying. We know that drivers' reaction times slow by almost half when they are having a chat on their mobiles. This is even worse than texting whilst driving – bad enough in itself - which our research has shown reduces reactions by a third," he said.
"It has been illegal to use a hand-held phone at the wheel since December 2003 and yet we have still seen this increase. It seems a small, but growing, minority of drivers choose to flout the law. Yet their actions can have tragic consequences."
© Press Association 2010