Drivers’ eyes off road for tenth of time

Motorists take their eyes off the road for a 10th of the time they are driving, a study has shown.

Eating, reaching for the phone, texting or engaging in other activities causes drivers to look away from what is happening beyond the windscreen.

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 US researchers.

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But even for experienced adults, the risk of crashing or a near miss more than doubled if they tried to “dial-and-drive”.

Co-author Bruce Simons-Morton, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, 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.”

Researchers analysed video from cameras installed in the cars of around 150 drivers. About a quarter had had driving licences for no more than three weeks.

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.

When a crash or near miss occurred, the scientists noted whether the driver was engaged in distracting activity.

Instances included drivers talking, dialing, reaching for a mobile phone or other object, altering radio controls, eating, drinking, looking at something outside other than the road, or adjusting a mirror, seat belt or window.

Generally, drivers had their eyes off the road for 10 per cent of their time behind the wheel.