The rise of super-tech cars could put millions of lives at risk, as distracted drivers take their eyes off the road to glance at in-car screens, a report has warned.
The report revealed that some two million Britons have experienced an accident or near-miss because their attention was on technology rather than the road, raising concerns over the safety of emerging in-car technology.
Jeanette Miller, managing director of Geoffrey Miller, the firm behind the research, said that while some advances in in-car technology have made driving easier and safer, other emerging technologies could be seen to create a risk for motorists.
“Aside from the 'being in proper control' laws, there are no specific laws in place to deal with the distraction of having a huge computer screen in the driver's eyeline as yet,” she said.
The firm warned that a rise in super-tech cars with in-car screens and complimentary Netflix subscriptions could make it harder for motorists to focus on driving, and called for greater intervention from industry leaders and the government to help tackle the issue at policy level.
"Legislation has not kept pace with the latest developments in car manufacturing, and policymakers need to consider the implications of these new super-tech cars before they become mainstream," said Miller.
The new report claims that electrical devices were responsible for distracting 57 per cent of drivers – with 1.4 million drivers having been forced to swerve to avoid oncoming vehicles, and around 1.25 million having accidentally passed through a red light.
Mobile phones and in-car radios have long been criticised as distracting to drivers, but little notice has been given to the distracting nature of in-car assistive technologies and entertainment systems, such as satnavs and in-car screens, which are becoming more and more common.
Looking away from the road for just five seconds while driving at 30mph can result in a car travelling over 50m. Apply this to motorway driving, with a car travelling at the national speed limit (70 mph), and the distance is increased to more than 160m.
The danger is not only in emerging technologies, however, as the research also found that a much more traditional action, changing the radio station, was the biggest distraction for modern drivers – with looking at a satnav or mobile phone coming in close behind.
The researchers also found that men were more likely to become distracted, and were the worst culprits for looking at their phones while behind the wheel.