Road safety charity Brake has renewed its call for hands-free telephone use when driving to be banned after a survey revealed that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to chatting when behind the wheel.

While the use of hand-held phones by drivers has dropped – hands-free use has risen. That is likely to be linked to the mistaken belief that it is a safe alternative, according to the charity, which conducted the survey in partnership with Direct Line.

The survey revealed that hand-held use has dropped to one in eight (13%), from over a third (36%) in 2006, but hands-free use has risen to nearly four in 10 (38%), from one in five (22%) in 2006

For the past 10 years, Brake believes that the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held. According to the survey, three in ten (32%) don’t know that any type of phone use while driving is dangerous.

In reality, it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones, with reactions 30% slower than driving at the UK drink drive limit, and 50% slower than under normal conditions.