Photo by Jeff Bundy via Flickr

200,000 motorists are fined each year for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, according to a recent report by Halfords, with one in four drivers admitting to using a phone illegally at least once a month.

The report comes on the fifth anniversary of revised legislation regarding mobile phone use while in control of a motor vehicle.

Drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving or riding can now expect an automatic fixed penalty notice that consists of a £60 fine and three penalty points, although the government is proposing to increase the fine to £100.

These stricter penalties appear to have done little to reduce in-car mobile phone use, though. Over 171,000 fixed penalty notices were issued in the 12 months leading up to October, according to police figures, making it the fifth most common traffic offence.

Halfords’ figures suggest that the number of drivers who admitted to using a mobile phone illegally has risen by 10% over the last year, with men being the worst offenders (67%).

Despite this admission of illegal behaviour, 88% of the drivers questioned by Halfords recognised that use of a mobile phone without a hands-free kit while driving is a danger to themselves and other road users.

Research conducted by the Department of Transport has shown that making or taking a phone call while driving quadruples the likelihood of an accident and significantly decreases reaction time, as this somewhat ridiculous online test supposedly demonstrates.

As the law currently stands, it is illegal to use any kind of hand-held device to send and receive calls or written messages, view images, or access the internet while driving or riding a vehicle, when waiting at traffic lights or in a queue of traffic.

Drivers can only legally use a handheld device in these circumstances if it’s in response to an emergency when it’s unsafe or impractical to stop, or when parked.

Hands-free kits are legal to use while driving, but this doesn’t remove the risk of the same three-point penalty if the police believe a driver is not in proper control of their vehicle.