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News weekly update: driving distractions

Driving distractions are the focus of this week's news as research reveals hands-free phones are just as distracting as handheld ones. But what else distracts drivers?

Hands-free phones are "equally distracting"

Using a hands-free phone while driving's just as distracting as using a hand-held device, according to researchers from the University of Sussex.

The study involved 20 male and 30 female volunteers who took part in video tests in a car seat sitting behind a steering wheel.

The volunteers were then separated into groups. One group was allowed to "drive" undistracted while the other two groups heard a male voice from a loudspeaker situated 0.9m (3 feet) away.

The drivers that were distracted by the voice trying to engage them in conversation took just under a second longer to respond to events, such as a pedestrian stepping off the pavement.

The researchers found drivers could visually imagine what they are talking about when having a conversation on the phone. The part of the brain used to do this is the same part that's used to watch the road.

Lesser-known driver distractions

Phones aren't the only distractions, the BBC revealed a list of other common things taking our attention off the road:

Get on your bike.


It isn't just motorists who have a phobia who can be distracted by spiders. Feeling eight legs crawling up your arm can distract anyone.

There may not be separate figures for spider-related accidents, but the Department for Transport's figures reveal distractions of all kinds inside vehicles have been listed as a cause for 68 deaths and 445 serious accidents in 2014.


When stuck in traffic, it can be quite a common sight to see motorists applying make-up or doing their hair. But, some drivers do this when the vehicle's moving. There may not be a specific offence against self-grooming but it's covered by laws against careless driving.

Attractive people

A recent survey in Australia revealed 59.2% of male drivers and 15.2% of female drivers were distracted by the sight of a good-looking man or woman.

This survey highlights how easily drivers can be put off by external distractions. The Department for Transport revealed external distractions were listed as the cause of 19 deaths and 206 serious accidents.

Survey reveals lack of home insurance knowledge

A new survey's revealed 1.6 million home owners in the UK have bought home insurance from their lender, with many mistakenly believing they cannot switch for a better deal, Property Wire reports.

Nearly a third (30%) of those surveyed believed their home had to be insured through the mortgage lender as a condition of the loan.

The survey also revealed almost a quarter (24%) think their mortgage will be invalidated if they switch from their lender's insurance.

While protecting a property with adequate buildings insurance is a requirement of all mortgage lenders, borrowers aren't obliged to buy it from their lender. It pays to shop around to get the best-value cover for your individual circumstances.

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