A study by the respected Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of esure insurance has found that mobile phones in cars distract a driver for longer than a screaming child.

The study, carried out in a driving simulator found that a ringing phone or a text message causes motorists to look away from the road for between 1.8 and 2.2 seconds on average.

Off the back of the study esure has created a mobile application for smartphones which can be downloaded for free and automatically blocks all visible and audible notifications to mobile devices while the car is travelling above 10mph. The DriveOFF app, which turns off all other apps and stops incoming calls or texts, aims to improve the safety of motorists and other road users.

The simulator study also revealed that posting a short status update on, for example facebook - an everyday temptation to those with a smartphone - caused motorists to move across their lane to a greater extent (up to one metre more than in controlled conditions), to be less consistent in their distance behind the car in front and to drive closer to the vehicle ahead. These decreases in performance occurred despite drivers slowing down - proving that a reduction in speed does not offset the true dangers of being on a smartphone and the dangers of updating a social networking status.

Overall, 22 per cent of UK motorists confess to having used their phone while driving, despite 65 per cent branding it irresponsible. 15 per cent of those motorists surveyed admit to using a mobile or smart phone to find directions while simultaneously driving.