More than half of van drivers admit to making calls on a handheld mobile phone while behind the wheel, according to new research.

A study by Volkswagen Commercial vehicles found that a shocking 56 percent of the 500 van drivers questioned confessed to having illegally used mobile devices while on the move.

The research also revealed that van drivers spend an average of 35 minutes a day on their phones while in their vehicles, making an average of seven calls each day. And some drivers are spending even more time on the blower, with one in 10 respondents admitting they spend two hours a day simultaneously driving and making calls.

Van driver using phone while driving

VW’s research comes a little over two years after the introduction of tougher penalties for drivers caught using their phones illegally. Before March 2017, using a handheld device while driving would land you with three penalty points on your licence and a £100 fine, but that has now doubled to six penalty points and a £200 fine. With driving bans dished out when the bearer accumulates 12 points, being caught just twice can be enough to see you stripped of your licence.

Even so, and despite evidence from the government suggesting that mobile phone use while driving is in slight decline, VW’s results would suggest the practise is as popular as ever.

Van driver using phone while driving

And it seems that the increased availability of hands-free technology isn’t helping things as much as you might expect. Despite having the fully legal equipment in their vans, a third (33 percent) of respondents said they ignore Bluetooth and other smartphone connectivity systems, preferring to flout the law by holding the phone to their ears.

More encouragingly, more than a quarter of those quizzed (27 percent) said they always used the hands-free technology fitted to their vehicles, but a similar proportion (23 percent) said they still didn’t have hands-free connectivity systems in their vans.

Van driver using hands-free phone while driving

Sarah Cox, the head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said the results showed drivers were still risking not only their money or their businesses, but also their lives and those of other people.

“Our figures show that many van drivers don’t have or aren’t using a Bluetooth hands-free kit behind the wheel – risking not only a fine and potential ban, which would damage business, but, more seriously, a potentially fatal accident,” she said.

“As part of our Working With You promise we ensure all our customers have the right accessories and equipment to make their jobs as easy and safe as possible,” she added, “whether that’s offering flexible van servicing or something as simple as a hands-free kit as standard.”