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The alarming extent to which drivers lose concentration has been highlighted by researchers.
Motorists take their eyes off the road for almost a fifth of their time behind the wheel, rising to nearly a quarter if they use a satnav, a study reveals.
Evidence from revolutionary eye-tracking technology shows that drivers take their eyes off the road every nine seconds on average attracted by passing clouds, adverts, scenery and a host of other distractions.
The results emerged after the researchers took 100 drivers and recorded where their eyes were focused during a 22-minute drive through a city.
Specialist glasses pinpointed the exact focus of the eye by tracking microscopic movements in the cornea. The experiment was captured on film and enabled researchers to establish exactly where drivers focus their vision.
NOT WATCHING THE ROAD
The study found that average drivers spend 18 per cent of their time behind the wheel not watching the road. Those who use satnav devices spend 22 percent of their time focused away from the road. They spend 12 percent of their time behind the wheel looking at their satnavs and 10 percent on other distractions.
For a driver travelling from London to Brighton, a journey of one and half hours, this is equivalent to 11 minutes with their eyes fixed on their satnav screen.
Average motorists spend 7 percent of their time behind the wheel looking at buildings, clouds and scenery, 0.8 per cent of it gazing at adverts, 0.7 per cent reading maps, 0.2 per cent checking the radio and 0.1 per cent looking at their passengers, according to the study.
Only 2 percent of their time is spent looking at oncoming vehicles and 0.6 percent observing road signs.
They spend the same amount of time, 3 percent, watching pedestrians who are not crossing the road as they do checking their mirrors.
But analysis of film footage showed that while both men and women are distracted by good looking pedestrians, only men turned their heads completely away from the road as a result.
Simon Henrick, a spokesman for Direct Line car insurance, which commissioned the study, said: “For the first time we know exactly where people focus their eyes when driving and the results are frightening.
“Even when drivers appear to be watching the road, by tracking movements in the cornea, we now know they are often watching clouds or shop window displays.”
Separate research by the Moneysupermarket.com website says three-quarters of motorists admit being distracted behind the wheel.
The main distractions include fiddling with the radio or CD changer (54 percent), drinking a beverage or eating a snack (47 percent for each), making a call or texting on a hand-held phone (16 percent for each) and dozing (4 percent). -Daily Mail