Almost half of drivers text at the wheel

A girl texting while driving.

New research has revealed that almost half of all drivers have the wrong end of the stick about rules surrounding texting at the wheel, which could lead to hefty penalties, and far higher car insurance costs.

The AA found that a large number of drivers thought it was perfectly fine to send a text at times when doing so is actually illegal. These include the 46% who thought they were allowed to read or write a text when they are pulled over at the side of the road with the engine running: this is actually illegal.

More worryingly, 28% of all drivers thought it was OK to text when they were stuck in a traffic queue, and 11% said they'd be happy to do so if they were waiting at a traffic light.

Younger drivers are especially likely to get things wrong. Some 41% of those aged 18-34 thought it was OK to text in traffic, and 23% of those aged 25-35 thought they were within their rights to text at traffic lights. 16% even thought they'd be OK to send or read texts when they were in slow-moving traffic.

In fact, in order to be legal to send or read a text in the car, it needs to be parked safely with the engine turned off.

Why?

There's a very good reason for this. Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance points out that drivers using a handheld mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash. She said "It's a deliberate act that diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash."

And while she adds that many people think they can get away with it, because they won't get spotted by a police officer, in the event of a crash, officers will routinely check the phone's records to see whether a message or call was taking place at the time.

Penalties

If you are caught breaking the rules, you face a fixed penalty of £100 and three points on your licence. In some circumstances, drivers could be charged with careless or even dangerous driving. If found guilty of either of those things, drivers would at the very least pay a hefty fine, and at worse face disqualification.

Young drivers who gain six penalty points or more within two years of being granted a driving licence, will have to take their test again too.

Insurance

And the penalties don't end here, because your insurer will take a very dim view of your situation too. On average after a mobile phone offence, insurance premiums will shoot up by 26% (compared to a 12% rise among those who are caught speeding). In some circumstances after a mobile phone offence, insurers will not offer cover.

The AA surveyed insurers to check the impact on insurance costs for a 35-year-old man driving a Ford Mondeo. The biggest increase in price after a driver was caught using a mobile phone at the wheel was 33%, while a number of insurers would not provide a quote for anyone with a mobile phone offence on their licence. When the offence was increased to one of dangerous driving, the highest rise was 55%, and two thirds of insurers refused to quote.

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It goes to show that texting at the wheel isn't a slight, acceptable, bending of the rules, it's a highly dangerous traffic offence, which dramatically increases your risk of having an accident, and could prove a very expensive mistake for years to come.

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The cheapest cars to insure
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Almost half of drivers text at the wheel

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Dacia has made a big impact in the UK with its line of affordable motors.
The Sandero is the foundation of the brand's offering and is famed for being the UK's cheapest car.

With a group two insurance classification it's also one of the cheapest cars to insure right now.
The entry level Access model is sparsely equipped, but it has a practical interior, big boot and low running costs.

Price new: £8,060

The Seat Mii is a small city car which Auto Express praises for its spacious interior, good build quality and supple ride.

All models are in insurance group one, bar the group two Sport version.
The Mii is available in three-door or five-door styles, but both measure just 3.5 metres, making it perfect for getting around town.

Price new: £8,090

The Skoda Citigo was crowned Auto Express Best City Car 2013.

The magazine praised its low running costs and practicality as well as its grown up driving experience.
Like its Mii stable mate the Citigo has group one insurance in all apart from its top specification model, making it one of the cheapest cars to insure.

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The third of the Volkswagen's group of three city cars to make the list is the Up!

Auto Express says the Up! was 'born to rule' city streets with its small dimensions and lightweight body.
There's three versions of this fun city car; Take Up! has a group one rating as does Move Up! while the higher spec High Up! gets a group two classification.

Price new: £8,345

The Hyundai i10 is another car which can get you a cheap insurance quote thanks to a group one insurance rating across all the 1.0-litre petrol models.

Auto Express says the new 2014 i10 offers big car features in a small package. And for £8,345 you also get Hyundai's five-year warranty and roadside assistance package.

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Vauxhall has managed to squeeze one of its full sized Corsas into insurance group two.
Auto Express says the 1.0-litre ecoFlex model has the lowest insurance costs of any mainstream supermini.

The eye-catching design, solid interior and big-car features make it an appealing buy for drivers.

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The Smart car caused a bit of a stir when it first appeared thanks to its dinky dimensions and bold two-seat layout, making it very useful for driving about town and absurdly easy to park.

The Smart ForTwo is the latest incarnation, which keeps to the same formula; it still has only two seats and is one of the smallest cars on the road measuring just 2.5 metres long,
The entry level 0.8- and 1.0-litre models qualify for group two insurance.

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The Peugeot Partner Tepee 1.6 VTi is the passenger version of the Partner van and according to Auto Express easily the most spacious new car that currently qualifies for a group two insurance rating.

It's got a boxy shape that provides plenty of room and has sliding doors which make it a very practical and flexible family car.

If you're after something smaller the Peugeot Bipper Tepee, which is the smallest of Peugeot's family of Tepee MPVs, also gets a group two insurance rating.

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