An estimated 1.2 million UK motorists are breaking the law by using a handheld mobile phone while driving on every journey they make. That’s the shocking conclusion of research by road safety charity Brake and car insurance firm Direct Line, which conducted a study of more than 1,000 drivers.

Incredibly, three percent of those quizzed confessed to illegally using a handheld phone for phone calls or texting on every single journey they made in the past year. Assuming the survey respondents were representative of the public as a whole, Brake estimates that as many as 1.2 million people are flouting handheld phone laws every time they drive.

That figure rather lessens the impact of the otherwise terrifying data that shows one in six motorists (16 percent) admitted to having illegally used a mobile phone while behind the wheel in the past year. That’s despite the introduction of new rules in 2017, which made using a handheld phone while driving an offence deserving of six penalty points and a £200 fine.

smartphone driving

Joshua Harris, the director of campaigns for Brake, said the government needed to take action to cut the number of people using phones.

“When you’re behind the wheel, it only takes a moment’s distraction to cause devastation,” he said. “This report reveals the shocking extent of the distraction on our roads with over a million drivers admitting to using their phones behind the wheel on every journey. We need the government to take note of these findings and act to tackle in-vehicle distraction now.

“It’s positive to see drivers themselves acknowledge the increasing issue of distraction on the roads and that they give their backing to calls for the government to tackle this issue. As a first step, we want the government to consult on the use of hands-free phones behind the wheel, with the evidence clearly pointing towards the need for a ban.”

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Meanwhile Stephen Barrett, head of Direct Line Car Insurance, said the number of drivers undeterred by the £200 fine and six-point penalty was “concerning”.

“Our reliance on our mobile phones and their apps has meant that, even though driving can be a small percentage of someone’s day, many find it hard to leave these devices alone while at the wheel,” he said. “It is highly concerning that even with increased penalties and a greater awareness of the dangers and consequences, there is still a large minority of drivers on the UK roads who continue to defy the law and put themselves and others at risk on a daily basis.”