Sat-navs, texting and over-chatty passengers – the deadliest distractions at the wheel, according to Auto Express and IAM RoadSmart experiment

Posted on 26/04/17 |

Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart and Auto Express, the UK’s biggest-selling car magazine, teamed up to find out which are the deadliest behind-the-wheel distractions with programming a sat-nav found to be the worst.

Auto Express consumer editor Joe Finnerty was put to the test alongside British Formula 3 hopeful Jamie Chadwick in a professional racing simulator at Base Performance Simulators in Banbury. They were both assessed to see how they coped with the most common distracting tasks on UK roads, while completing timed laps and braking at a specific point. On hand was IAM RoadSmart’s head of technical policy, Tim Shallcross, to monitor the findings.

The results proved shocking, with a massive difference in performance between distractions. Entering a postcode into a sat-nav app proved to be the worst, followed by sending a text message. Other tasks carried out included eating, drinking, making a phone call and talking to a passenger.

Tim Shallcross said: “There was still a significant speed reduction for Joe when using a sat-nav, and even the ultra-focused Jamie completely missed the stop line. The moral? Those warning screens about not entering details on the move are there for a reason – don’t ignore them.”

On texting Tim said: “Joe would have been a menace to other road users; the car was more or less out of control. Jamie’s caution reduced the distraction in critical zones, but a sudden incident would have left her unable to take avoiding action.”

The least distracting task for lap time was talking to a passenger, but it still ranked very poorly for the braking test. Tim said: “It was the least distracting of all in terms of lap times, but interestingly, both drivers failed to brake accurately at the target line. Their ability to drive normally confirms the difference between the extra distraction of a phone conversation and the natural act of talking to a passenger, but still shows that any distraction reduces attention, and in an emergency, it might be critical.”

Steve Fowler, Auto Express editor-in-chief, said: “These results highlight just how important it is that drivers give their full attention to the road ahead. We’ve seen the staggering numbers of people who are still using phones at the wheel and these tests show how dangerous they can be – whether it’s texting, calling or programming the sat-nav. More work needs to be done to target those who still think it’s acceptable to use a phone while driving.”

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IAM RoadSmart has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart is the trading name of all businesses operated by the UK’s largest road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and was formed in April 2016 combining the IAM, IAM Drive & Survive, PDS and IAM Driver Retraining Academy. The organisation has 92,000 members and campaigns on road safety on their behalf. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses, from members of the public to company drivers, while our Driver Retraining Academy has helped 2,500 drivers to shorten their bans through education and support programmes.

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Auto Express is the UK’s biggest selling weekly car magazine. The multi-platform brand delivers the big motoring news stories, scoop pictures, drives of new cars and road tests – FIRST! Nothing moves in the world of cars without Auto Express knowing about it, from future models to changes in the law. Auto Express is the definitive road testing title, too – both in print and online – assessing more cars (over 1,100 a year) than any other title.

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