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Study Highlights Perils Of Distracted Driving

Thu, 02 Jan 2014

IF YOUR mind has ever wandered when behind the wheel you’ll likely relate to this latest study of driver behaviour.

According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland, USA, motorists typically have their eyes off the road for a tenth of the time they are driving.

Worryingly, for 10 per cent of their journey they are eating, reaching for the phone, texting or engaged in other activities that cause concentration to wander away from what is happening beyond the windscreen.

Predictably, teenagers who had recently passed their test were most likely to crash or experience a near miss as a result of being distracted, according to the researchers.

However, even for experienced adult motorists the risk of crashing or narrowly avoiding a collision more than doubled if they tried to "dial-and-drive".

Commenting on the study’s findings, report co-author Dr Bruce Simons-Morton, said: "Anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road can be dangerous. But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven't developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel."

For the study, the researchers analysed video footage from cameras installed in the cars of around 150 drivers.

About one quarter were novices who had obtained their driving licences no more than three weeks earlier. The remainder had, on average, 20 years of motoring experience and ranged in age from 18 to 72.

Participants' driving was filmed over a period of 12 to 18 months. Sensors fitted to the cars recorded acceleration, sudden braking, swerving, drifting out of a lane, and other driving data.

Dr Simons-Morton added: "Our data support the current trend in implementing restrictions on texting and cell phone use in vehicles.

"As new forms of technology increasingly are available in cars, it's important that drivers don't feel compelled to answer every incoming call or text. For young drivers' safety, parents can model this habit when they are at the wheel, and also let their children know that they should wait until the vehicle is stopped before taking a call - even when it's from mum or dad."

By Press Association reporters