While the number of drivers using a hand held mobile phone has increased slightly in the past six years, the majority of those doing so are now texting or using social media rather than making a call, according to data published today (25 Feb) by the DfT.
The DfT commissioned TRL to carry out a mobile phone survey in 2014 across 60 sites in England and 30 sites in Scotland.
In the survey, 1.6% of all drivers were observed using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving, compared to 1.4% when the survey was previously carried out in 2009.
Of those seen using a mobile, 1.1% were holding it in their hand, while 0.5% were holding it to their ear. The DfT suggests that this indicates that “most mobile phone usage whilst driving is for the purposes of sending or receiving a text or using social media, rather than making a call”.
In terms of gender, a higher proportion of male drivers (1.7%) were observed using a hand-held mobile than their female counterparts (1.3%).
With regard to vehicle type, van drivers (2.7%) had the highest overall rate of mobile phone use. The corresponding figures for car drivers and lorry drivers were 1.4% and 1.2% respectively, while bus, coach and minibus drivers had the lowest rate (0.4%).
The IAM says that 1.6% of all drivers equates to “more than 470,000 motorists” using a mobile, and described the results as “very disappointing but not at all surprising”.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “Campaigners routinely talk about the inherent dangers of the distraction caused by mobile phone usage, but drivers never believe they will be caught.
“Campaigns run by THINK! and the DfT need to be revived and invigorated with stronger messages for new drivers and van users. Mobile phone usage at the wheel can kill – there’s no two ways about it.
“Tackling mobile phone usage must be a government priority for 2015. People must have the fear of being caught increased as we believe this is the only viable deterrent, but that needs an increase in visible policing.”