Highways England: in-car touchscreens can be unsafe

The chief exec of Highways England commented: "Clearly, we need to think about touchscreens with small, fiddly buttons... we don't like them from a safety perspective"

touchscreen distraction highways england

The chief executive of Highways England has expressed concerns about in-car touchscreens. Speaking at an event in London last week, Jim O’Sullivan stated “we don’t like them from a safety perspective,” citing “small, fiddly buttons” as a specific concern.

The problem boils down to distraction. The European Commission has estimated that as many as 30 percent of accidents (and at least 10 percent) are directly linked to drivers losing concentration. This, against an industry trend of sacrificing tactile buttons for touchscreens.

Worries about infotainment make sense, given that mobile phones and other hand-held devices are illegal to use while driving. What’s the difference in terms of distraction, after all, between a mobile phone and an in-car screen?

touchscreen distraction highways england

Using a phone while driving is prohibited by law – you’ll get six points and a £200 fine. Nevertheless, devoting too much of your attention to your car’s touchscreen can still land you in hot water. If your driving reflects a deficit in concentration, you can still be stopped for driving without due care and attention. The penalty is between three and nine points, plus a fine of up to £2,500.

As for lawmaking, it would be difficult to implement a ban on infotainment given that so many cars have the technology already. Then again, cars are capable of over 70mph but it’s still illegal to drive that fast…

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Ethan Jupp
I'm Content Editor at MR. Road trips music and movies are my vices. Perennially stuck between French hot hatches and Australian muscle cars.


  1. Comparison with speed limits doesn’t work. You can drive within the speed limit. You can’t drive without using these cheap, distracting screens to some extent. In my 20 year old runabout, I can operate the radio and heater controls in the dark, using one hand, in seconds. I can operate all essential controls without taking my eyes off the road at all. By contrast, with a screen “equipped” car, I’m required to drive while taking my eyes off the road. They are not needed and should be banned.

  2. I’ve thought the same for some time. Good dashboard ergonomics have usually led to a safer driving environment but have lately been ignored and replaced by the manufacturers in favour of the modern trend to have everything on a screen. This is partly due to the ‘Smartphone’ generations desire to have everything integrated in one little package but it also suits the manufacturers because a circuit board is cheaper to produce and less costly to install than physical buttons.


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