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Nearly half of young motorists using phones whilst driving

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Startling figures released by the RAC have shown that almost half of young motorists use a mobile phone whilst driving.

The research conducted by the motoring organisation found that young drivers are using smartphones whilst driving to listen to music, read emails and check maps whilst driving.

In its Report on Motoring 2011, the organisation said that although it is illegal to use a phone at the wheel, 48% of drivers aged 18-24 had admitted to smartphone distractions, with 24% using an iPod to listen to music, 23% reading emails and 22% checking Google maps.

Young motorists are even using services such as Blackberry Messenger or Google Talk whilst driving with 15% admitting to having done this, whilst a further 15% admit to using Twitter whilst in their vehicles.

Worse, 8% have admitted to playing games on smartphones whilst driving, and 21% admit to texting while behind the wheel.

Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist, said, "Drivers using handheld mobile phones is still an all-too common sight, and one that appears to be getting worse.

"The popularity of smartphones and apps, especially among younger drivers who have grown up with the technology, risks creating a new generation of drivers who believe using a phone behind the wheel is acceptable. This has to change."

“At 70mph your car travels around the length of six double decker buses every two seconds – if someone told you to close your eyes at that speed for that length of time you'd think they were crazy – yet people are doing virtually the same thing by taking their eyes off the road to look at phones."

82% of motorists have agreed that using a phone behind the wheel is dangerous, but worryingly a minority (14%) said they feel "confident and safe" doing so.

Current legislation in force in the UK makes it illegal to drive while using a handheld phone.  Offenders who are caught are issued with a fixed-penalty notice, which means three penalty points on their license plus a fine of £60.

If the case goes to court, convicted offenders can be disqualified from driving and face a fine of up to £1,000.

By Ben Malkin

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