There has been much attention on driver distraction due to the use of mobile phones in vehicles, but increasingly research is also revealing the dangers of other forms of driver multi-tasking, and its contribution to road accidents.
Although our Driver Distraction Factsheet talks mainly about driver distraction, other road users including riders, cyclists, and even pedestrians can also be distracted when using the road.
A substantial body of research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.
Our Mobile Phones and Driving Factsheet outlines the law relating to the use of mobile phones in a vehicle, concerns around the use of both hands-held and hands-free mobile phones while driving and issues around mobile phones that employers are advised to consider.
Although it has been noted that headphones can cause hearing damage, much less attention has been paid to the effects of headphones on the quality of driving. It is expected that drivers who are wearing headphones would need to shift their attention from what they hear in their headphones to external sound sources in certain situations, which could delay the speed of their response to external events. This is thought to be dangerous enough to form a risk in emergency situations.
Our Headphones as a Driving Distraction Factsheet provides an overview of the evidence relating to headphones as a driving distraction.
Satellite navigation (sat nav) devices
Several different types of Sat Navs are available to drivers, many of which are built into the vehicle itself.
Used well, a Sat Nav can help drivers plan routes and prevent them from making last minute lane changes or hesitating because they are not sure of the directions. However, a badly used Sat Nav can distract the driver and increase the risk of an accident. It is important that drivers understand how best to use their sat nav and learn not to use it when it may be dangerous to do so.
Our Satellite Navigation Factsheet provides advice on making the best use of a sat nav and choosing the best device.
Over the last ten years, there has been a huge increase in the digital technology available to motorists, allowing them to perform tasks that are unrelated to driving while they are behind the wheel. One of the biggest developments in this period has been the rise of infotainment systems. This refers to vehicle systems that combine entertainment and information delivery for drivers and passengers, often with the use of audio and touchscreens.
Whilst infotainment systems can be handy for the driver, allowing them to carry out many tasks, there is also the potential that they can be a distraction – more so than traditional radio systems. Distraction is a serious road safety problem: in 2018, there were 2,647 road traffic accidents where ‘distraction inside vehicle’ was cited as the contributory factor – 68 of these accidents were fatal.