Wandering eyes can cause road traffic accidents, scientists have warned in the wake of shocking new figures.
US researchers found that motorists take their eyes off the road for an average of six minutes every hour.
For a tenth of the time they are consumed in distracting activities that cause concentration to stray away from what is happening on the road.
These include eating, drinking, reaching for the phone, texting, altering temperature or radio controls, or adjusting a mirror, seat belt or window.
Teenagers who have just passed their test are most likely to have an accident or have a near miss because of being distracted, the study showed.
But even for veteran drivers, the danger of crashing or just missing a collision more than doubles if they attempt to ‘dial-and-drive’.
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Cameras watched for traffic accidents
Researchers noted whether the motorist was engaged in distracting activity when
road traffic accidents or near misses happened.
They studied film from cameras fitted in the vehicles of about 150 motorists.
Motorists were videoed for 12 to 18 months.
Sensors fitted to the cars monitored driving behaviours such as acceleration, sudden braking, swerving, swaying out of a lane.
Co-author Dr Bruce Simons-Morton, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, said that anything that takes a motorist’s eyes off the road can be dangerous.
He added: “Our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers.”
The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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