Car technology 'a huge distraction'

Advancements in automotive technology mean drivers can now send texts or change radio stations in the car without having to take their eyes off the road.

But a new study conducted in the US suggests these types of voice-activated, in-car gadgets are actually putting motorists at even greater risk of accidents.

Researchers suggest that systems are so complicated to operate - and prone to error - that drivers expend even more concentration than would be required to do the things themselves.

Two studies were carried out for the research, each testing drivers' experiences of using such technology. These took place in laboratory conditions, in driving simulators and on actual roads.

The first tested dashboard infotainment systems in the common car brands of Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes. The second looked at the Siri voice recognition system on the Apple iPhone, which sends text messages and posts social media messages while being operated by drivers.

Drivers were asked to give ratings of between one and five for the systems, with one being no distraction and five being highly distracting.

Siri proved to be the most distracting device with a final score of 4.14. The infotainment system with the worst rating was Chevrolet's MyLink, which scored 3.7.

Chevrolet says it is looking at this kind of technology in its vehicles in response to driver demand, with many motorists saying access to music and calls is now an essential part of their driving experience.

Copyright Press Association 2014