Multi-tasking while driving ‘detrimental’ to driving performance

Multi-tasking while driving can have a “detrimental” effect on the quality and accuracy of driving performance, according to a new report produced by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM ) and the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL ).

The report, entitled ‘The battle for attention’ and jointly produced by TRL researchers Dr Neale Kinnear and Dr Alan Stevens and IAM’s director of policy and research Neil Greig, focused on the dangers involved when drivers try and engage in more than one task.

The research concluded that the most dangerous of all driving multi-tasks is texting and talking on a mobile phone. Dr Kinnear, who is a senior psychologist in the study of human behaviour and transport, and Dr Stevens, who is chief scientist and research director with internationally recognised expertise in ‘Human-Machine Interaction’, both reviewed existing research behind in-car distractions to understand the various cognitive processes and complexities in driving.

They said texting engages three of the five key areas of distraction to a “high” level - cognitively, visually, and manually. A mobile phone conversation also engages three of five areas of distraction to a “high” level - cognitively, audibly, and in exposure time.

Figures from the Department for Transport (DoT ) in 2013 found 2,995 cases where distraction in the vehicle was listed as a contributory factor to accidents. A further 1,627 cases were listed where distraction outside the vehicle was a contributory factor.

IAM’s chief executive officer, Sarah Sillars, said: “This is proof, should it be needed, that multi-tasking 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.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded at



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