September 18, 2009

Traditional pastimes like observing the road, braking, steering and signalling are rapidly falling out of favour as drivers turn to new distractions. So claims the RAC’s annual Thumbnail report.

Around 40% of UK motorists surveyed admitted having their attention diverted while at the wheel, while 55% of 17 to 24 year olds confessed to being, like, “seriously distracted” while driving. One in five of these young hooligans admitted listening to music through headphones, 16% to putting on make-up, and fully 26% to texting.

A growing array of attention-grabbing in-car gadgets and controls now contend for drivers’ attention. The top five distractions are: CD players/radios (57%), Sat-Nav (41%), mobile phones (32%), Air-con controls (31%), and dashboard warning lights (21%), which can certainly be hard to ignore over long periods of time – particularly the ones that say things like refuel or turn engine off now.

The report’s authors calculated that in the five seconds it takes to change a CD at 70mph, a car travels over 150 metres (almost the length of two football pitches – presumably we’re careening across Hackney Marshes). Allowing for a typical stopping distance of 96 metres, the vehicle could travel over 250 meters (i.e. add another football pitch) before coming to a standstill – unless of course some solid object(s) happened to impede its progress along the way.

Figures from the Department for Transport suggest that the number of fatal accidents on UK roads involving in-vehicle distractions as a “contributory factor” increased by 50% between 2005 and 2007.

The sooner they have those robot thingies that do all the driving, the better. Then everyone can relax and play Grand Theft Auto on the in-car entertainment system.



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