WE REALLY need to watch out; as we become so besotted with gadgetry in our cars we are putting our own safety at risk.
That is a simple, straightforward conclusion based on everyday observations but, far more importantly, on a major new study.
According to the hi-tech research, we have become so distracted by satnavs, for example, that we are taking our eyes off the road – every nine seconds.
The study used special eye-monitoring equipment and found that drivers spend 18pc of their time not watching the road at all while driving.
The research highlights something many people would have observed, especially over the past few years: that there is a huge temptation to fiddle and twiddle with devices – not to mention the use of mobile phones while at the wheel.
Drivers with a satnav, for example, were found to have had their eyes fixed on the display for 12pc of their total journey time. So, if they were travelling 100km, they would have driven 12km 'blind'. Just imagine that.
Drivers using satnav were also found to have spent six times longer watching – or messing with – their device than oncoming traffic.
The eye-tracking technology is highly sophisticated. It recorded eye movements. It found that those twiddling with satnav devices had their eyes off the road a dangerous amount of time.
Those taking part in the experiment wore special glasses for the duration of the tests. They monitored exactly what the driver's eye's were looking at.
It found that satnavs and mobile phones weren't the only distraction. For example, when drivers were not looking at the road ahead, they gazed at:
Hard to believe when you see it in black and white but, perhaps, if we were honest about it, we might see some of our own failings.
But the frightening outcome is that the entire exercise shows, without any shadow of doubt, that those drivers took their eyes off the road every nine seconds.
The study was commissioned by insurer Direct Line.
By comparison, other research has shown that the average driver spends a mere 3.2pc checking their mirrors and 0.6pc of their time observing road signs.
And yet another survey really substantiates the trend towards drivers paying increasingly less attention to the road. Commissioned by moneysupermarket.com, it discovered that 75pc of motorists admitted they had been distracted behind the wheel.
More than half (54pc) said they had changed music while driving; while 47pc had eaten or drank at the wheel.
The truly frightening thing about all the studies is that drivers are covering long distances without looking at the road.
We should get back to the real job at hand – driving safely with total focus on the road ahead of us.