Page last updated at 23:05 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 00:05 UK

Top driver distractions revealed

A man driving while using a mobile phone
A total of 52% of respondents admitting using a mobile while driving

Three out of four vehicle crashes are caused by the driver being distracted at the wheel, according to researchers.

The study, by Heriot-Watt University academics, found texting behind the wheel or dealing with children were the two biggest causes of accidents.

Anonymous questionnaires were used to understand people's driving behaviour.

Despite the penalties, the study showed more than 52% were prepared to admit using a mobile phone while driving, and 40% said they had written a text.

Technology was found to play a big role in accidents and near misses, with satellite navigation systems and MP3 players cited as major distractions for drivers.

'Risky activity'

Research leader Dr Terry Lansdown said: "I think there is a social component to texting particularly and I think many people rely on their business communications.

"There is no doubt that whether you are using your phone hands-free or hand-held and if you read or write texts it is a risky activity to do while driving, it will distract you."

Having unruly children in the car was found to be the most frequent cause of accidents.

Mother-of-three Elaine Nicolson said: "It can be absolute chaos at times, particularly if I am picking them up after school and they are really hungry and tired.

"The minute they get in the car they're shouting for food and maybe bored and asking 'where are we going, what are we doing?' and it's just constant, constant noise."

'Face imprisonment'

Police said the research spells out exactly why it is important drivers minimise the distractions in the car.

Ch Insp Bryan Rodgers, of Lothian and Borders Police, said failure to do so can have catastrophic consequences.

He said: "The reality is that one very small lapse of concentration can devastate lives.

"Nobody goes out intending to cause harm in these situations, but not focusing on your driving can mean that you change your family life forever, you change someone else's family life forever and even maybe face criminal charges or even imprisonment."

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