News: In-car gadgets blamed for increase in accidents on UK roads

RAC believes drivers are distracted by gadgets

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DISTRACTIONS caused by in-car technology have been blamed for a rise in the number of deaths and serious injuries on Britain’s roads in the past 12 months.

Some motoring experts believe that the increase in critical injuries can be attributed to the number of technological distractions modern drivers face. Many manufacturers pack their new cars with features, such as smartphone connectivity, advanced satellite navigation and increasingly complicated “infotainment” systems, which control everything from the vehicle settings to the heating to the audio system.

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The figures, published by the Department for Transport (DfT), reveal there has been a 4% increase in the number of deaths and serious injuries in the past 12 months to almost 25,000. It follows decades of steady decline.

The RAC believes many motorists are losing concentration thanks to the sheer number of gadgets installed in new cars, with its own polling showing that mobile phones are a “major source of distraction” for more than a quarter of drivers.

Pete Williams, the RAC’s head of external affairs, told The Times: “Is it the case that many of us don’t link reaching for the phone with staying safe, and think we’re likely to get away with it?”

Edmund King, AA president, said that the statistics were worrying but that gadgets are not necessarily to blame. ”We would strongly dispute the assumption that these increases are solely down to drive distraction; indeed there is no suggestion in the report that this is the case,” he told Driving.

“When the annual road casualty report is published later this year we will be able to see a full breakdown of contributory factors in these accidents, but until then it is dangerous to assume the rise is purely down to in-car distraction.”

The DfT figures reveal that incidents involving cyclists showed the biggest rise, with a record 3,500 deaths or serious injuries in the 12 months to last September, up by 8%.

 Serious accidents involving children increased by 3% to more than 2,000, representing the first year-on-year rise since the mid-1990s.