Checking your satellite navigation while in the car could have a negative impact on your driving, psyhcologists have found.

According to researchers from four different universities who carried out the study, visually scanning something as part of a task can have effects that carry over into another, unrelated task, having an impact on someone’s attention.

Sat nav
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

A series of experiments were carried out by psychologists from Anglia Ruskin and Bournemouth universities, as well as the Universities of Salford and Birmingham. These involved showing test subjects a series of letters either horizontally, vertically or randomly placed across the screen and giving them a search task.

Immediately following this, the participants were shown a road scene and asked to either memorise it, rate it for danger or respond to a hazard. The research found that in each one, the so-called “carry-over” of eye movement from the letter scanning meant that their attention was influenced, with their eyes drawn in certain directions.

Though in some cases responses were found to be quicker, the researchers said this further proved the effect the “carry over” can have.

Sat nav
(Dominic Lipinski /PA)

Dr Michael Pake, a senior lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University said: “Our research shows that an individual’s immediate attention can be affected by previous tasks. The fact that attention may continue to be allocated based on the demands of a preceding task could have important safety implications.

“In driving settings, this could impact on the safety of road users as reading information on a sat-nav, or even road signs, could cause a change in scanning behaviour and increase the risk of a hazard being missed.

“Further research should be carried out to explore the full extent of this effect and examine to what degree this ‘carry over’ influences road safety.”