Thousands of teenagers are using smartphones to log on as they drive, as well as sending emails, tweeting and texting, it has been revealed.
The lure of Facebook, Twitter email and texts is just too much for a fifth of drivers aged from 17 to 24, who admit to endangering lives so they can keep up with their online contacts at the wheel.
The lengths to which they will go for their fix were revealed by the RAC yesterday in its annual report.
Road safety experts say the situation is getting worse because using a phone is not yet as socially unacceptable as drink-driving for young motorists.
11 percent of all drivers also looked at apps and websites, listened to music or even played games on their phones.
Drug-driving is also on the rise, particularly among younger drivers, despite Government plans for a crackdown.
The number of 17 to 24-year-olds driving after taking drugs has nearly doubled from 5 percent to 9 percent.
“The growth of the new breed of motoring offences, like drug-driving and social networking behind the wheel, is highly concerning. These offences don’t yet have the same social taboo that drink-driving holds,” the Daily Mail quoted RAC technical director David Bizley as saying.
Studies by insurers show that drivers using hand-held phones are twice as likely to crash.
“Using smartphones for social networking while driving is more dangerous than drink-driving or being high on cannabis behind the wheel,” the research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the Transport Research Laboratory at Crowthorne, Berkshire, said.
Drivers caught using a hand-held phone at the wheel face three points and a 60-pound fine, which is set to increase to between 80 and 100 pounds.
Serious offenders may be banned and fined 1,000 pounds, and a driver who kills someone while using a phone can be jailed for 14 years.