Driven to distraction

20 min read

We wouldn’t want to be without our infotainment systems, but they can be distracting on the move. We test 20 cars to see which is the best for keeping your eyes on the road

Claire Evans

Photography: John Bradshaw
Eye-tracking tech was used to measure time spent looking away from the road

ALTHOUGH MOST PEOPLE are now competent at tapping away on a mobile phone or tablet screen to find information, read messages and get directions, doing that while driving has the potential to be far more dangerous than sitting on your sofa at home.

According to the latest data available from the Department for Transport, driver impairment contributed to 12,246 road traffic collisions in 2022. It’s a growing problem; distraction was a contributing factor in 17% of all road accidents in 2022, up from 13% in 2013. And when you examine the data for fatal collisions, the statistics are even more worrying; driver distraction was a factor in 29% of road deaths in 2022, up from 23% in 2013.

Most new cars come with a touchscreen infotainment system through which you access a lot of the most commonly used features. As well as the car’s settings, many systems also contain controls for the radio and other media, the sat-nav and the climate control. And given the trend towards pared-down, minimalist-looking interiors, increased reliance on touchscreens could be fuelling the problems for drivers.

Car makers are aware of the problem, though, and after stripping the traditional physical controls off the dashboard of many new mainstream models a couple of years ago, some are reinstating buttons and dials for functions such as climate control. Others are turning to voice control systems as an alternative that should be less distracting.

To find out just how easy it is to use the various systems available in new cars, we got 20 different models together and recorded a tester performing key functions in each car.

How we conducted the tests

We performed three separate functions, first using the touchscreen (or alternative physical controls) and then using each car’s voice control system. Each test was done three times and was carried out only after the tester had become familiar with the car and its controls.

All tests were performed at 30mph on a test track. The only exception to this was for cars that didn’t allow sat-nav destinations to be entered while the car was moving; in those cases, we didn’t award any points for that test.

Our tester wore a

This article is from...

Related Articles

Related Articles