What do you find trickiest when behind the wheel? Reversing? Parking? Roundabouts? According to a recent study, it’s none of these things. Instead, the biggest challenge for drivers, and one of the most dangerous driving habits in the UK is, according to the research, turning right whilst chatting.
We all know that chatting can be distracting, and whether it’s hands-free on your phone or to a passenger, Canadian researchers have discovered that it’s a ‘recipe for disaster’ when trying to turn right into oncoming traffic.
The study, lead by Dr Tom Schweizer, director at St Michael’s Hospital Li Ka Knowledge Institute, Toronto, focused on British drivers, and found that turning right whilst chatting distracts you ‘from the primary task of driving’. Parts of the visual system in the brain shut down whilst talking, and Dr Schweizer explains that this is incredibly dangerous for British drivers who have a lot to process, visually, when completing the tricky manoeuvre.
Not only do we have to concentrate on oncoming traffic, but, according to Dr Schweizer, we also have to consider traffic lights at the same time as looking out for pedestrians who may be crossing the road that we’re turning into.
During the study, 16 young drivers were asked to operate a driving simulator, equipped with a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal, inside an MRI brain scanner. They were then asked to perform tasks, such as turning at intersections (both with and without oncoming traffic), whilst encountering distractions that mimicked talking on a hands-free phone or with a passenger.
‘Hands free does not mean brains free’
The research, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, allowed scientists to look at, in Dr Schweizer’s words, ‘real-time neuroimaging evidence supporting previous behavioural observations suggesting that multitasking while driving may compromise vision and alertness. Hands free does not mean brains free.’
The Canadian research team has labelled the multi-tasking manoeuvre the ‘most dangerous thing you can do while driving’, and it’s not just the drivers that they’re holding responsible for this dangerous driving habit.
‘Automobile manufacturers also have a responsibility to improve safety by refraining from installing various communication devices in vehicles, or by installing deactivation systems if drivers attempt to use the devices while the car is in motion’, the report explains.
So, although you’re not breaking any laws by speaking hands-free or to a passenger whilst turning right, it’s worth thinking about how your concentration levels may be affected.
You can read more about the study on the Daily Mail.
Image via didbygraham @ Flickr