Car phone addiction

100,000 at any one time still use a hand-held while driving

16 May 2009

Just say no, AA and Lord Ahmed urge drivers

Two-thirds of UK drivers expect to go to jail if they cause a fatal accident while using a mobile phone, new AA research reveals1. Yet 100,000 drivers at any one time use a hand-held phone while driving2.

Such is the addiction for holding a mobile phone or texting behind the wheel, even though most drivers know they face losing their freedom after a serious accident, the AA has produced a study into the problem. This has been supported by one of the most high-profile offenders, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham.

Hanging on the telephone – read the full report (pdf document) »

Looking at what might influence a driver not to pick up a phone, an AA/Populus Panel poll of 11,147 found that a third of them see using a hand-held phone as worse than speeding, while 53% rate it on a par with drink or drug-driving. Yet, despite the offence being rated alongside recognised anti-social driving behaviour and the act of picking up and answering being deliberate, many drivers simply can't stop themselves.


Around 55% of the respondents say they would be tempted to answer their hand-held phone if it went off while they drove. Putting temptation beyond harms way is impossible for 38% of drivers who cannot bring themselves to turn their phones off while driving.

Uneasy passengers

However, if they are passengers, 66% of them would ask the driver to hang up if it rang and was picked up, while a further 27% would say nothing but feel uneasy.

Campaigns and publicity

The guilt incentive for not answering a mobile is best illustrated by the response of hand-held mobile phone usage to road safety campaigns and publicity against it. Roadside surveys by TRL Ltd into hand-held phone use showed a drop in use following the introduction of new laws.

The initial banning of hand-held phones while driving, in December 2003, reduced the number of offenders from 1.5 in every 100 to 1.1 by the following September - before climbing back to 1.5 by April 2005. And, in February 2007, introducing three penalty points for the offence cut usage from 1.7 in September 2006 to 1.0 through most of 2007. However, by September 2008, using a hand-held phone while driving had crept up again to 1.1 in every 100.


Andrew Howard, the AA's Head of Road Safety says: "It is clear that the message on the danger of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving and the possibility of being imprisoned is understood loud and clear. Despite this, many drivers seem determined to continue.

"The question has to be asked: is this a rational decision, or the manifestation of an addiction?"

"In the immediate future we need to change social attitudes to the car phone and increase the likelihood of being caught. It is not just the driver who needs to be targeted, but also the people who receive or make calls to drivers".

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, added: "More and more people are using their mobile phones throughout their daily activities. But, when you're driving it's time to switch off! I learnt this the hard way. Please do it now before it is too late!"


The AA report, "Hanging on the Telephone", also looks at "Twitters on the highway". Use of the phone is changing and texting is more popular.

Now, as the telephone and the internet draw ever closer together, the latest phenomenon to emerge is "Twittering" on the move. By trawling the Twitter site, one can find hundreds of examples of individuals who admit using Twitter at the wheel. This is a growing concern which could lead to more accidents. Actual examples include:

  • "Twitter used to post number plate of idiots talking on mobile"
  • "Driving a taxi"
  • No downtime to tweet except driving"
  • Twitter and driving at the same time is not good glad weren't no cops around"
  • Twitter how I love you. Driving home such a great day"
  • Driving home from work, shouldn't twitter drive"
  • I'm driving top down"
  • Awake ,hung-over and driving"
  • Trying to stay awake driving"
  • Tweeting past a billboard as I speed"

Edmund King, AA President and an active user of Twitter (@AAPresident) said; "This raises a concern that without concerted publicity and police campaigns to crack down on texting or tweeting at the wheel the problems and dangers will increase. The AA will campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and indeed the potential penalties such as prison. We are delighted that Lord Ahmed has joined our campaign."


1"The AA Mobile Phone File: Hanging on the Telephone",

2"Mobile phone use by drivers", TRL Limited, December 2008

Join the discussion in the AA zone


18 May 2009