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Nearly half of drivers risk lives for a phone call


12:00am 29th March 2012

Nearly half of drivers are putting lives on the line by chatting on their phones at the wheel, according to a survey out today by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line. 

Almost half (48%) admit risking their own and others' safety by chatting on a phone while driving, of which two in three (65%) flout the law by using a hand-held phone, which has been illegal since 2003.

A huge proportion (25%) talk on their phone at the wheel at least once a week, suggesting phone addiction is getting the better of many.

Brake and Direct Line are launching a campaign urging drivers to 'drive smart' by putting their phones out of sight and out of mind while driving.

They are warning that using a hands-free or hand-held phone at the wheel can lengthen reaction times to a similar extent to drink driving, significantly increasing the risk of a devastating crash.

Hard-hitting billboard adverts by Brake and Blue Hive will be displayed across London next week to get the message across that using a phone while driving can be fatal.

Unlike many other types of deadly risk-taking on roads, male and female drivers, young and old, are almost equally guilty of phone use at the wheel, showing widespread misunderstanding of the dangers.

Men are slightly more likely to chat on a phone than women (50% compared to 47%) and young drivers are slightly more likely than older drivers (52% compared to 48%).

However, far more young drivers than older drivers break the law by using a hand-held phone (41% compared to 30%).

Young drivers are also far more likely than older drivers to use their phones to text, email or surf the web at the wheel.

A horrifying 44% of young drivers admit texting at the wheel, compared to 27% of older drivers, while 21% of young drivers email, go online or use apps, compared to 9% of older drivers.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said:

"Use a phone while driving and you are taking a horrendous risk with your own life and the lives of others.

"Many drivers who wouldn't dream of drink-driving are using phones while driving, oblivious that the effect on your reaction times can be similar.

"We're urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important.

"If you need to use your phone urgently, pull over somewhere safe first: it's as simple as that.

"We are also calling on the government to do more to tackle phone use at the wheel, including banning hands-free phones and bringing in far stiffer penalties."

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting and Pricing, said:

"Driving whilst using a hand-held phone is against the law, yet many drivers continue to flout it.

"Whilst it is legal to speak 'hands-free' it's  just as distracting, and even the slightest distraction whilst driving can have the gravest consequences.

"Much more needs to be done to deter motorists from the dangers of using mobile phones whilst driving, as any action that involves taking your eyes off the road or your mind from the task increases your chance of a collision.

"Too many people are either still unaware that using a mobile phone can be a major distraction to their concentration while driving, or are simply ignoring the rules of the road.

"Mobile phones have now become such an intrinsic part of many people's lives; unfortunately they can also be a way of ending them." 

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