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A small UK-based study has found programming a satellite navigation app to be more distracting for drivers than texting.

Undertaken by UK road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) RoadSmart and UK publication Auto Express, the experiment focussed on determining which common ‘behind-the-wheel distractions’ have the most potential for disaster.

To find out, two ‘drivers’ – one a young British Formula 3 hopeful, the other an Auto Express journalist – were put behind the wheel of a professional racing simulator and given lap-time and braking challenges, while being faced with several potentially dangerous distractions, including entering a postcode into a satellite navigation app, sending a text message, making a phone call, eating, drinking, and talking to a passenger.

From significant speed reductions to completely missed braking markers, the results found entering a postcode into a sat-nav to be the most distracting and potentially dangerous distraction, followed by sending a text message.

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Tasked with monitoring the results, IAM RoadSmart head of technical policy Tim Shallcross said both subjects experienced a level of distraction that would have made them “a menace to other road users” and unable to take emergency evasive action in the event of “a sudden incident”.

“Those warning screens about not entering details on the move are there for a reason – don’t ignore them,” Shallcross said.

Talking to a passenger proved the least distracting for completing lap times, however it still had a significantly negative impact on braking outcomes.

“It was the least distracting of all in terms of lap times, but interestingly, both drivers failed to brake accurately at the target line,” Shallcross said.

“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.”

What do you think is the biggest distraction for drivers? And do you pay enough attention when you’re behind the wheel? Let us know in the comments section below.




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