Road safety charity, Brake, has called for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel, as a survey by the charity revealed a rise in hands-free phone use from 22% to 38% over the past decade.

According to Brake’s research whilst hand-held mobile phone use has dropped significantly since legislation was introduced in 2003 to ban drivers from using a mobile device while driving, one in eight drivers admit to breaking the law.

The survey has also revealed what safety campaigners have long thought – that driving whilst using a hands-free kit affects safety.

Reactions for drivers using hands-free phones is slowed by 30% which is the same as that for those using hand-held mobiles and is the reaction time of someone driving at the UK legal drink driving limit. The risk of being involved in a collision is also increased four times whether the equipment is handheld or hands free.

Helen Williams, a specialist dealing in road traffic accident claims at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “These figures confirm our worst fears. Road traffic accidents can be life changing for those involved.

“For the sake of sending a text or receiving a call, people are not only putting themselves at risk, but also endangering the lives of pedestrians, passengers and other motorists.

“This research debunks the notion that legal hands-free devices are a safe alternative to hand held mobile phones for drivers. The evidence is now out there that using hands-free devices increases the risk of an accident and is like driving at the upper UK limit for drink driving.

“We echo calls from Brake for a blanket ban on mobile phone use at the wheel.”