Cutting the risks posed by driver distraction requires action by the Government, carmakers and dealers to ensure onboard tech is being used safely.
The call comes from road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, in line with the arrival of the new 70 registration plate, as it warns of the serious dangers that in-car infotainment systems can pose.
Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year, and research carried out for the charity earlier this year concluded that the latest vehicle infotainment systems impair reaction times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.
Disturbingly, the research showed the reaction times of drivers tested was significantly slower at motorway speeds than someone who had used cannabis and five times worse than someone driving at the legal limit of alcohol consumption.
Other findings from the research found that using in-car touchscreens resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving.
It’s a subject also under review in a call for evidence launched earlier this year as part of a Department for Transport review into roads policing.
Now, IAM RoadSmart is urging the Government and vehicle manufacturers to take a lead on this. It’s calling for a collaboration on openly testing and approving such systems and the development of consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction.
And it also says that the Government and car/van makes should enforce greater education and familiarisation of new in-car technology, including infotainment and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), before drivers leave the forecourts or take delivery of their new vehicle.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s Director of Policy and Research, said: “Now is the perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of correctly using the latest in-car technology with the arrival of the new registration plate on 1 September.
“Swiping a screen is replacing the turn of a button or dial so it is vital that car dealers educate motorists on how to correctly use these new systems, so that they are a safety benefit and not a potentially dangerous distraction.”
He added: “It is also imperative that the Government and the vehicle manufacturers enforce and support this.
“Whether you’re buying a new car now or already own a vehicle with technology that is new to you, it is vital that you use it safely. Anything that distracts a driver’s eye or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.”
To find out more about IAM’s study commissioned earlier this year, click here.