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The technology in cars driving us to distraction

Hands-free mobile phones have failed to make the roads safer according to a University of Sussex psychologist.

Mobile phones should be banned from cars altogether, according to Dr Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology. Dr Hole has highlighted the worrying combination of mobile phones and cars in his new book, The Psychology Of Driving.

Mobile phones, fatigue, eyesight, drugs and age are among the issues considered by Dr Hole as he examines the factors that impact on driving. The book explores the role of each of these elements in increasing the chances of an accident and was inspired by the author's conversations with road safety experts across the country. Dr Hole believes there are psychological aspects to road accidents which have to be considered.

He says: "The government should have banned mobile phones in cars altogether. It has sent out the wrong message by abolishing hand-held phones because this gives the impression that hands-free phones are safe. The problem with mobile phones is not vehicular control and only having one hand on the wheel, but rather it is taking away attention from what is happening outside the car."

Myths about older people making worse drivers and claims about an improved reaction time among younger people are explored in The Psychology of Driving. The book reviews research from hundreds of authors around the world and took four years to complete. Questions about how drivers decide what to attend to while driving, the role of a driver's expectations in determining what they see and how they respond to the road are among the areas covered in the book.

Dr Hole's own study of the impact of new technology on driving appears in his book. Satellite navigation systems and new design aimed at transforming cars into a mobile office, are among the modern developments which he says now compete for driver's attention behind the wheel.

Dr Hole says: "We need to be very careful about how we go about handling modern technology in cars, because we are opening a Pandora's Box.

"When anyone is driving there is a lot of information outside the car and if there is too much going on inside then there is a danger of overloading the driver."

Jessica Mangold | alfa
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