Millions of Britons may still be using their mobile phones while driving despite penalties for the offence being doubled, research suggests.
Since March 1, drivers who use a hand-held phone have faced receiving six points on their licence and a £200 fine - up from the previous penalty of three points and £100.
While 89% of the 1,727 drivers surveyed by the RAC said they were aware of the law change, more than a quarter (26%) of those who knew of the tougher penalties admitted to regularly using their devices behind the wheel.
If the results were mimicked across 40 million UK drivers, it could mean 9.2 million motorists are habitually breaking the law, with the figure potentially even higher including the 11% of drivers who said they were unaware of the change.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said the situation “remains dire” a year after research revealed the illegal use of mobile phones by drivers was at “epidemic proportions”.
“It is clear we have a hard core of persistent offenders who believe they can get away with it by continuing to flout the law every day,” he said.
“More has to be done to educate drivers that any use of a hand-held phone at the wheel is both illegal and presents both a mental and a physical distraction that could ultimately cause a crash and the loss of life.
“The Government, and indeed all those who campaign on road safety, need to impress on drivers the dangers of being distracted at the wheel and the consequences of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
“Drivers need to take more responsibility when they get behind the steering wheel and think seriously about whether choosing to pick up a hand-held mobile phone is really worth the risk.”
The research, carried out for the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2017, found the number of drivers who admit to making or receiving calls illegally has fallen by a quarter in the past year.
But the illegal use of mobile phones by drivers was named as the number one concern for motorists surveyed, with 16% citing it as their top worry from a list of 23 common concerns.
Mr Williams added: “The numbers of drivers still using their hand-held phones at the wheel remains at epidemic levels and is a serious problem for society. The Government, police and road safety organisations still have a huge job to do to end the hand-held mobile phone menace.”