Individuals that feel they are able to handle multiple tasks while driving could be placing both themselves and others at risk, new research has shown.
A study published by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the Transport Research Laboratory has revealed how the act of focusing on more than one activity when at the wheel of a vehicle can be highly detrimental to road safety for all.
The research looked closely at the 'battle for attention' that takes place when drivers attempt to do more than one thing simultaneously.
It highlighted five key areas of attention that are needed for driving – cognitive, visual, audible, manual and exposure time – and found that in the case of both texting and talking on a mobile phone, at least three of these areas suffer a reduction in focus on the key skill of driving in each case.
As a result, drivers that multitask at the wheel, be it something as simple as changing a radio station, are in fact reducing the level of attention they are paying to the road and therefore run an increased risk of being involved in an accident.
Overall, figures released by the Department for Transport show that in 2013 alone, a total of 2,995 accidents were reported on the UK's roads in which distraction was cited as a major contributing factor to the incident.
IAM chief executive Sarah Sillars commented: "This is proof, should it be needed, that multitasking and driving simply don't mix. Whilst there are plenty of distractions to tempt the driver, the individual needs to know that the phone, or internet, or the iPod simply don't matter – driving is the only activity that should occupy your mind while at the wheel.
"It's important that we work with the government, car makers and educators to deliver a renewed focus on driver training and road safety – and that people know that distractions can be fatal."