The RAC survey of more than 2,000 drivers goes a step further too: almost two in three motorists say they saw at least one driver using a mobile phone behind the wheel in the last hour.
Mobile phone use at traffic lights is particularly rife: 84% say they see it often and 16% say they see this on every journey.
It’s now reached epidemic levels, says the motoring organisation.
And why are drivers doing it? Surprisingly, the majority (more than 60%) say it’s to make a short phone call – despite many modern cars coming with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity as standard.
Around half say they use their mobile in traffic to check email or text messages, and a similar number use the time to send text messages. Surprisingly, only around 7% admit to checking social media.
Using a mobile at the wheel IS illegal
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “13 years after the introduction of the current law forbidding use of a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle, this behaviour is far from being stamped out.
“The results of our research suggests the problem has got worse rather than better.”
Many people don’t even realise using a mobile in traffic is illegal, says Williams. “There seems to be an unfortunate perception that a quick look at a phone at the traffic lights is okay.
“However, it is a significant distraction which at best may hold up other road users when a driver doesn’t notice that the lights have changed, and at worst may increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle.”
What should be done? More road traffic police officers would be a start, as “there is very little fear among offenders of being caught”.
What’s also needed is a high profile advertising campaign, similar to the ones for drink-driving and speeding. “Using a hand held phone should be regarded as being as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.”
The current fine for using a handheld mobile phone while driving is three penalty points and a £100 fine. The government is consulting on increasing the fine to £150, and increasing penalty points for HGV drivers using mobile phones from three to four.