Despite the offence carrying a fine of €60 and two penalty points, many motorists are prepared to take the risk of getting both in order to keep on talking or texting, according to the AA survey. Of all the drivers surveyed 46.5 per cent said the witnessed the use of hand-held 'phones "on a daily basis", while 27.2 per cent said they witnessed the behaviour "very regularly".

"In many ways, because it’s something we do on a daily basis, we can all be guilty of under-appreciating just how dangerous driving truly is. That danger, as well as your risk of being involved in a collision or incident, increases significantly if you opt to use a phone while driving," says Conor Faughnan of the AA.

"While phones make modern life easier in many ways, being behind the wheel driving requires 100% of your attention. No matter how important you think the call or text may be, your number one priority should always be the safety of yourself and other road users."

Currently, someone using a hand-held device while driving can be fined €60 Euro and be given two penalty points but that can rise to a fine of €4,000 and four penalty points in any subsequent court case. 

The AA is also warning people that even when they have a hands-free facility, engaging in "any conversation increases your risk of being involved in some kind of incident". It says drivers should avoid using hands-free 'phones for any lengthy conversations and should use them only when "absolutely necessary". 

Respondents to the AA survey were asked how often, if at all, they had witnessed another driver using their 'phone behind the wheel. The survey, as these figures below show, indicate that only 5.2 per cent of respondents said they had never seen another driver using a hands-free 'phone.