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Number of people driving 'on autopilot' rises by a third

The research is part of Continental Tyres’ ‘Vision Zero’, a long-term commitment to reduce accidents through innovative tyre technologies and automotive systems.

The latest study finds that eight in 10 road users admit they sometimes drive on autopilot – zoning out for some or all of their journey. The issue is getting worse as the same study in 2009 found six in 10 failed to concentrate throughout their trip – an increase of a third in six years.

A quarter of all drivers say that being distracted happens as often as one in five journeys – with around one in six men admitting they often cannot remember the entire journey.

The study of 2,000 drivers also determined that women drivers are nearly twice as likely as their male counterparts to compile a mental shopping or ‘to do’ list whilst men listen to music, the radio or podcasts.

It was also revealed that men are far less worried that being an autopilot motorist impacts their safety, with 41% not bothered if they sometimes tune out – 24% more than with women.

Women are 57% more likely to be distracted on small side roads – when travelling slower – whilst men are 48% more likely to switch to autopilot when on motorways.

Professor John Groeger, driving psychologist at the University of Hull, said: “Driving is a complex task that requires our attention but not necessarily our absolute concentration, as long as everything is happening like we expect it to on the road.

“Without concentration reacting to something unexpected may simply take too long for us to respond safely.

“The sheer monotony of driving can mean maintaining concentration is very difficult and tiring though it is vital that we get it right.”

As advances are made in automotive technology, more and more tasks are removed from the driver – like parking assistance – so the potential exists for there to be less to concentrate on.

Men are very positive about future automotive technology as they are 46% more likely to suggest automated driving will increase road safety. Three in ten women are not sure whether such advances will be safer.

When asked about the priorities for development, men were nearly twice as keen as women to see driverless cars on the road, whilst female motorists are 23% more likely to want technology to improve protection for people in the event of a crash.

Mark Griffiths of Continental Tyres said: “It’s important that all motorists are mindful about their concentration levels when on the road and that they make sure they feel refreshed and fit to drive.

“And whatever technology is introduced to assist their driving, it’s essential that driver remains in control and recognise their responsibility.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.