More than 1,000 young drivers were surveyed by insurance firm ingenie who found that over half of young people admit to using their phone handset while driving – and most are reading text messages or using apps.

The findings were released during Road Safety Week earlier this month. The campaign was about raising awareness about the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel.

The survey found that while 89% of young people get annoyed when they see someone else using the phone behind the wheel, 50% admit to using their own phone to read text messages while driving and 37% admitted to sending text messages when behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, nearly 75% admitted they often or occasionally use the maps app on their smartphone to get directions while driving, as a substitute for a sat-nav.

And it’s not just navigation. Significant numbers of young drivers admitted to using mobile apps while on the move, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

10 Most Distracting Mobile Apps

Around 25% of those surveyed admitted to using music ID app Shazam to identify songs on the radio. And 17% even admitted to occasionally playing Angry Birds while driving.

By contrast, far fewer young drivers admit to taking calls without a hands-free system, with only 16% of young people saying they often or always make calls in this way.

Aside from smartphones causing distractions while driving, three-quarters of young drivers said they often felt distracted when they had a car full of passengers.

Quentin Willson, motoring expert says: “These figures serve to underscore the simple fact that more must be done to educate inexperienced young drivers about the dangers of being complacent on the road. Being distracted behind the wheel, even for just a split second by a text message, can have life-changing or even fatal consequences. I for one would like to see the government doing more to teach our children about the dangers of the road in school at a younger age but, in the absence of that.”

ADI view

David Pearson is a driving instructor and we spoke to him about teaching new drivers about road safety. He said: “When I am in a lesson and I see bad drivers on their phone I point them out to my learner and explain how dangerous it is. I heard a Radio 4 programme once that said our brain processes differently when talking to a person in the car compared to speaking to someone on the phone or through Bluetooth radio.”

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