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A study reveals that drivers are easily distracted by satnavs, clouds and adverts, taking their eyes off the road every nine secondsWe all know it’s impossible to keep your eyes on the road all of the time, but a new study employing eye-monitoring equipment has revealed that drivers spend 18 per cent of their time behind the wheel not watching the road at all.
The study, which utilises the latest eye-tracking technology to record drivers’ eye movements, found motorists using satellite navigation devices were even more distracted, with 22 per cent of their time focused away from the road.
Participants in the experiment wore special glasses that monitor the exact focus of the eye by tracking microscopic movements in the cornea. The experiment was captured on film and enabled researchers to establish exactly where drivers focus their vision.
It found that when not looking at the road ahead, drivers tend to gaze at clouds, scenery, adverts and other non-driving related distractions, on average taking their eyes off the road every nine seconds.
The study into driver behaviour commissioned by insurer Direct Line shows that drivers with a satnav have their eyes fixed on the display for 12 per cent of their total journey time. Drivers using satnav also spend six times longer watching their device than oncoming traffic.
The average driver spends only 3.2 per cent of the total journey time checking their mirrors while, on average, drivers spend seven per cent of their time gazing at clouds and scenery and 0.8 per cent of their time observing adverts. Two per cent of their time is spent actually looking at oncoming vehicles and 0.6 per cent observing road signs.
Motorists spend the same amount of time (three per cent) watching pedestrians (who were neither on or crossing the road) as they did checking their mirrors. And while both men and women appear to have been distracted by good looking pedestrians, only men turned their heads completely away from the road as a result.
Simon Henrick, spokesperson for Direct Line, said, “For the first time we know exactly where people focus their eyes when driving and the results are frightening. Even when drivers appear to be watching the road, by tracking movements in the cornea we now know they are often watching clouds or shop window displays.”
Video evidence also reveals drivers engaging in dangerous behaviours, such as changing between two satnav devices and gazing down at a mobile phone held in their lap to navigate.
The findings are backed up by the results of another survey, carried out on behalf of moneysupermarket.com, in which three quarters of motorists admit to being distracted behind the wheel and that one in 10 driving convictions is for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
More than half of those surveyed (54 per cent) admitted to changing music while driving; 47% eat, 47% drink and 16% send texts from a mobile phone. Six per cent admitted to using apps on a smartphone or tablet, updating their Facebook status or tweeting.
The research also found that motorists, as well as distracting themselves, are easily distracted by others. More than a third of people (35 per cent) admitted to being distracted by children or other passengers and one in five (20 per cent) said a good-looking person made them take their eyes off the road.
Kevin Pratt of moneysupermarket.com said, “We all lead busy lives and find ourselves trying to multi-task, but taking your eyes off the road for only a second could have disastrous consequences for yourself and other motorists and pedestrians. Using a mobile phone to text, call or tweet when behind the wheel is not only very dangerous but also illegal.”