Touchscreens have worse effect on driving than alcohol or drugs.

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart has stated that “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year."

This comes as the latest study by TRL and IAM Roadsmart has revealed that in-vehicle infotainment systems are impairing reactions times behind the wheel more than drink driving or smoking cannabis.

Other factors including stopping distances, lane control, and response to external stimuli were all negatively affected by the use of touch screens in vehicles. Examples looked at in the study were Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

The results showed, among other results, that some drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving and that using touch control presented worse reaction times than if they were texting while driving. The study also found that reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths.

Grieg continued: “While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.

“We’re now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction.”

The study saw drivers complete three journeys on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the first, drivers were not permitted interact with the system, on the second, drivers interacted with the system using voice control only and then using touch control only for the third.

Some drivers modified their behaviour, such a slowing the vehicle down, once they realised the system was distracting them. However, they were still unable to maintain constant distance from the vehicle in front of them and reactions to sudden changes on the road were much slower, resulting in them even driving over their lane.

Both methods of control used in the test were found to significantly distract drivers, but touchscreens proved the more distracting of the two

“Individuals driving for work are just as at risk as the general public, so we would also encourage employers to review their advice and policies in light of this research,” concluded Greig.