Using a mobile phone behind the wheel is set to become the biggest in-car cause of road fatalities in the UK by 2015, overtaking drink driving, experts say.
An increase in motorists chatting, texting or tweeting while driving has led to more accidents classed as 'in-vehicle distraction', express.co.uk notes. AA polled some 18,000 members to discover that over the past 12 months 38 per cent of respondents found themselves distracted by phones, radios, sat-navs or other people.
Nearly 7,000 respondents admitted losing their concentration when in the driver's seat, resulting in 106 crashes and 548 reporting a near-miss. Twelve per cent of AA members blamed the distraction of their mobile for their crash.
Department for Transport figures show that in 2012 there were 378 mobile phone accidents - the most on record. There were 548 casualties as a result of the accidents, including 17 fatalities. According to fleetnews.co.uk, these figures are actually misleading and the problem is much greater than it appears, due to the 9,012 accidents and 196 deaths which were a result of in-car distraction between 2010 and 2012.
In total, that amount is only 27 less than fatalities caused by drink driving over the same period.
Simon Marsh, managing director of incident video camera firm SmartWitness, said: "The problem is far more widespread than Department of Transport believes and driver distraction due to mobiles will soon be the biggest single cause of death on the roads.
"We believe a large number of serious and fatal accidents are wrongly classed as in-vehicle distraction when the specific cause of the accident was down to mobile phone use.
"The only real deterrent is a one-year ban from driving for anyone caught texting at the wheel," he added.