Motorists 'switch off' after just eleven minutes behind the wheel –

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Brits' love affair with technology could be attributing to more accidents on the road according to new research out today which found that a lack of mental stimulation has led to a worrying one in eight motorists (13 per cent) having an accident or near miss whilst driving.

The research commissioned by esure car insurance who used the independent online research company Fly Research who surveyed 1,003 motorists from across the UK, aged 18 and over, between the 18 and 20th February 2012 found that British motorists will drive for just eleven minutes before 'switching off' behind the wheel on a long journey. A quarter of motorists (25 per cent) admit they get bored easily whilst driving, with over a fifth (22 per cent) revealing they regularly slip into autopilot.

Over a third of motorists polled (34 per cent) have made a journey somewhere and had no memory of the trip upon arrival. 14 per cent of those questioned even admitted that they had driven to the office by mistake instead of their desired destination because they were driving in autopilot.

According to the study, more than one in ten Brits (11 per cent) admitted they suffered from technology withdrawal symptoms whilst behind the wheel and a third (32 per cent) even admitted to changing the radio station or quickly checking their phone to keep their mind stimulated.

Behavioural Psychologist Donna Dawson comments: "Driving is an activity that can feel repetitive and overly-familiar, and so it is easy to slip into 'mental auto pilot' when doing it. This means repeating actions in a mechanical way without thinking too closely about what we're doing.

"Normally, this 'glazing over' is the way that the brain attempts to save mental space and energy for any new, fresh challenges that might arise. This response may happen more frequently in people who are avid technology users because without the high level of mental stimulation that they are used to, they may find driving to be more monotonous and boring than the non-technology user."

The most popular 'tech action' motorists crave whilst driving is surfing the internet (21 per cent), closely followed by making a phone call (20 per cent) and sending a text message (18 per cent). Other reasons found to influence autopilot mode were sleepiness (24 per cent) and work related thoughts (25 per cent). 30 per cent of motorists surveyed admit they have frightened themselves through realising they have 'switched off' whilst behind the wheel.

The research also found that the average British motorist wastes £47.25(*) every year in petrol due to driving "extra" miles on autopilot.

Mike Pickard, Head of Risk and Underwriting at esure car insurance, said: "Advances in technology have revolutionised the way we keep our brains stimulated. We all love playing with our gadgets but as this study shows this can become problematic when we get behind the wheel.

"Even on a short journey it is important for all motorists to focus on the road ahead and not let technology withdrawal systems get the better of them whilst driving."
Regional Breakdown

Those in the North East are the worst culprits when it comes to "switching off" at the wheel with 43 per cent of drivers admitting they often drive on autopilot. In contrast, people in the East Midlands are the best when it comes to concentrating behind the wheel with just 15 per cent revealing they drive on autopilot.Gender Breakdown

Proving men are creatures of habit, 16 per cent admit they have driven to the office by mistake on their day off work instead of their desired destination – this compares to just 11 per cent of women. 16 per cent of male motorists snap into autopilot mode when their partner is trying to talk to them behind the wheel, in contrast just 10 per cent of women "switch off" due to their partner's conversation.

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