The illegal use of handheld phones by drivers has been named as the top concern for motorists, following new research published by the RAC.

The idea of other motorists being distracted by their device was the top worry for more than one in six (16 per cent) of the 1,727 motorists surveyed for the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2017. Respondents picked this ahead of 22 other issues and it appears to be a growing concern, up from 13 per cent in 2016 and nine per cent in 2015.

After mobile phone use, the next most pressing concerns were the condition of local roads (picked by ten per cent), the cost of fuel (nine per cent) and the cost of insuring a car (eight per cent).

Overall, two-fifths of the survey sample listed illegal handheld mobile phone use and the distraction it inevitably causes as one of their top four concerns.

The Government moved to quash illegal phone use behind the wheel in March by doubling penalties to six points and a £200 fine.

Despite this, eight per cent of respondents said they had not changed their habit at all, while seven per cent said it had not really made a difference.

The RAC’s report revealed that drivers aged 25 to 44 were most likely to use their phone illegally behind the wheel, making up almost two-fifths (39.6 per cent) of habitual lawbreakers. A third were aged between 45 and 64, while almost a fifth were 17 to 24. More than half of habitual phone drivers (57.3 per cent) were male.

When quizzed on why had to use their phone illegal, the most common excuse is ‘It was an emergency’ (18 per cent), followed by ‘I needed information for my journey’ (17 per cent).

Other reasons given are ‘I’m in the habit of doing so’, ‘I can get away with it’, ‘I didn’t realise it was illegal’ and ‘everyone else does it’.

Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, commented: “There is clearly an issue with people’s mindset when it comes to using a phone whilst driving and this research confirms it. More worryingly, tougher penalties haven’t made them rethink their potentially dangerous habit.”

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