A crop of deaths caused by drivers using mobile phones at the wheel has prompted calls for penalties to be substantially increased for the potentially lethal offence.

The number of road accidents caused by this driver irresponsibility increased by 40% between 2010 and 2014, although convictions dropped due to pressure on police time. Accidents caused by people distracted while using a hands free kit were also included – in one instance a mother of seven ran over and killed a two year old girl while using the “safe” kit.

Meanwhile car makers including Honda, Toyota and Fiat are responsibly marketing trendy vehicles that incorporate access to Facebook and Twitter on the dashboards.

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