Mobile phone use while driving still a big concern, says new report

Drivers using a handheld phone behind the wheel remains one of the most prominent concerns of motorists, new data from the 2020 RAC Report on Motoring reveals. 

The report also claims that nearly one in five (18%) of drivers aged between 17-24 have admitted to taking part in video calls while driving. 

The figure is more than twice that of drivers of all age groups. The RAC claims the rise in popularity of video-based apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Snapchat has contributed to such a significant proportion admitting to such actions. 

The statistics, compiled from a representative UK sample of more than 3000 drivers, also reveal that 9% of those questioned admit to playing games on a phone behind the wheel. However, the rates of those surveyed admitting to this illegal phone usage has largely dropped across the board compared with 2019’s data. 

Findings in the RAC’s 2016 report, which reported the problem was at ‘epidemic levels’ eventually lead to the introduction of tougher penalties for those who use a phone while driving. However, RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams says the new figures reveal “that the problem of illegal phone use at the wheel has far from disappeared”. 

The 2020 report reveals that 79% of motorists support the introduction of cameras to identify illegal phone use – technology that’s already in use in Australia. Of those people, 52% strongly support such measures, which will reduce the burden of enforcement on already-stretched police forces.

“Our findings from 2016 were a watershed moment which led to the UK government calling for people to make illegal mobile phone use while driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving”, Williams said. “The fact drivers still state it’s their second-biggest motoring concern of all shows that more progress still needs to be made here.”

The RAC has called for more “regular and robust” data on the problem to be gathered by the government and for police forces to trial handheld phone detection technology. It also wants more investment in high-profile media campaigns to raise public awareness to the dangers of phone use while driving. 

The full 2020 RAC Report on Motoring can be read here.