A survey has found that drivers using satellite navigation systems are less likely to notice hazards on the road.
Seventy drivers were studied at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, finding that those drivers who have to focus on one piece of information – such as a map on a screen or a line of text – struggle to readjust their eyes when they turn their attention to the road.
To conduct the study, drivers were shown street scenes while being asked to spot potential hazards. While doing so, they were asked to look at a line of letters and count out the vowels that they could see.
It appeared that those who were asked to count out letters were less aware of potential dangers ahead of them.
Dr Michael Pake, a psychologist who conducted the research, said that motorists failing to spot hazards after looking at other information was down to a ‘carryover effect’.
This effect comes after people conduct repetitive tasks, such as scanning a map, before moving on to something more random, like spotting dangers on a road.
Dr Pake said: “Our research shows that an individual’s immediate attention can be affected by previous tasks.
“The fact that attention may continue to be allocated based on the demands of a preceding task could have important safety implications.
“In driving settings, this could impact on the safety of road users as reading information on a sat-nav, or even road signs, could cause a change in scanning behaviour and incease the risk of a hazard being missed.”