THE number of motorists using hand-free kits to chat on their mobile phones while driving has increased, according to a new survey.

A decade after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel, road safety group Brake is renewing its call to ban hands-free kits, as a survey by the group and Direct Line revealed almost half (45 per cent) of drivers admit to chatting when driving.

While the use of hand-held phones by drivers has dropped, hands-free use has risen.

Brake and Direct Line's survey reveals:
• Almost half (45 per cent) of drivers admit to talking on a phone at the wheel, down from 54 per cent in 2006
• Hand-held use has dropped to one in eight (13 per cent), from over a third (36 per cent) in 2006
• Hands-free use has risen to nearly four in 10 (38 per cent), from one in five (22 per cent) in 2006

The survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers (30 per cent) admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) - more than four in 10 (44 per cent) - doing so.

Brake calls for a total ban on mobile phone use at the wheel and the prioritisation of traffic policing by government to help enforce it.