A fifth of motorists do not know it is illegal to check social media websites on a phone while driving, a survey for motoring group the RAC suggested.
The research found 61% wrongly believed it was legal to text at the wheel of a stationary car with the engine running.
Far more drivers said they saw other people breaking the law than admitted doing it themselves.
The RAC said the findings revealed a “frightening level of ignorance about the law” relating to mobile phone use.
The survey of 1,526 British motorists found 12% did not know it was illegal to write text messages while driving and 21% thought it was legal to check social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The research also found:
- 31% of drivers did not know tailgating was illegal
- 42% did not know “middle lane hogging” (driving in the middle lane of a motorway when not overtaking) was illegal
- 53% believed it was safe to use a mobile phone while stuck in traffic or stopped at traffic lights
- 42% believed they were “unlikely” to be caught for texting while driving
- 34% worried about other drivers being distracted at the wheel by talking on mobile phones
Three-quarters of drivers surveyed said they had seen others talking on hand-held phones while driving – but just 8% admitted doing this themselves.
RAC technical director David Bizley said this discrepancy showed people “do not consider themselves as being ‘one of them'”. He said only one in 10 of Britain’s 35.8 million drivers had penalty points on their licences, but more than a million had been convicted for mobil phone offences since they were made “explicitly illegal” in 2003.
“This prompts the question as to whether motorists are deliberately flouting the law or whether they are just unaware of exactly what is and what isn’t legal?” he said.
But he said it was “clear” that drivers thought it was “more socially acceptable and less dangerous” to use mobiles phones while stopped in traffic.
“They forget, for example, that when concentrating on their phone, a cyclist may pull up beside or just ahead of them and they may pull away, totally unaware of the cyclist’s presence,” he said.