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Lack of driver concentration ‘is a concern’

Many drivers are failing to demonstrate the necessary levels of driver concentration to stay safe when behind the wheel, new research has revealed.

According to separate studies carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and road safety charity Brake, many drivers are eating and drinking when in charge of a vehicle; while one in ten admit to travelling on ‘autopilot’.

IAM’s research showed 14 per cent of motorists admit to completing journeys but then having no recollection of the actual events which led to them arriving at their destination, calling their levels of driver concentration into question.

Overall, young motorists were shown to be the worst culprits for this behaviour, with 35 per cent of drivers aged 18 to 25 stating this has happened to them in the past.

This is a dangerous state of affairs, as poor concentration can result in an increase in the time it takes for motorists to react to potential hazards up ahead, such as a vehicle suddenly breaking or a pedestrian or child running out into the road.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Being distracted enough that you miss a turning is a sign that driving is a task that has fallen too low in your brain’s priorities.

“While we all have other concerns and stresses in our lives which can take precedence in our minds, the act of driving should remain your biggest priority when behind the wheel.”

He added it is all too easy to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and “zone out completely”. However, it is imperative to remember that driving is one of the most dangerous behaviours the average person will take part in during their lives.

A significant proportion of drivers are also being distracted by eating and drinking when behind the wheel – 62 per cent of the 1,000 drivers polled by Brake said they had carried out this behaviour in the last year.

Overall, almost one-third (29 per cent) of drivers admitted to opening or unwrapping food while driving, while 33 per cent said they had eaten food or drink that had been handed to them by a passenger.

Perhaps more worryingly, two per cent of respondents stated they have had to take emergency action to either swerve or brake hard as a result failing to identify a hazard on the road ahead of them because they were distracted by eating.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of Brake, commented: “Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road and dramatically increases your chances of crashing and killing or seriously injuring someone.”

Brake is now calling on the government to take action over the risks posed by eating and drinking at the wheel. And while the organisation has welcomed the recent introduction of a £100 fixed-penalty notice for drivers found guilty of ‘careless driving’ offences, Brake believes this fine should be much larger to fully recognise the risks that eating and drinking while driving represent.

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