Distracted drivers: is the Ford Focus the solution?

“We found that the sheer number of ways to carry out simple tasks in the cars was baffling, and crying out to be simplified.”

These are the words of Which? Car editor Richard Headland, who has warned the number of distracted drivers on the road is set to increase because of the complexity of in-car entertainment, information and navigation systems.

Driving while operating music and radio systems, satellite navigation and car diagnostics can distract a driver and increase the likelihood of an accident on the road.

As more technology gets introduced to cars and as controls are increasingly accessible via touch-screens, it has become harder for drivers to access these features without taking their eyes off the road.

Which? has now drawn up a ten-point checklist advising car makers on how to beat distracted driving by modifying their systems.

Headland said: “Although some car companies performed very well, other carmakers need to follow their lead and ensure their systems pose as little distraction as possible to motorists.”

We believe Ford, and in particular the new Ford Focus, was one of those companies – and it’s all down to its innovative new SYNC system.

So how does SYNC help drivers avoid accidents? Below we take a look at the ten suggestions from Which? and how Ford has tweaked SYNC to meet them.

1 – Drivers shouldn’t need to look away from the road for more than two seconds at a time to operate a single device

The key to Ford’s SYNC technology is that entertainment, information and navigation are all accessible via the same system and this can be done using voice commands.

Ford’s SYNC is voice activated and this means song choices, satellite navigation and even text messages can be accessed via voice commands, leaving the driver to concentrate on the road.

2 – The fewest possible inputs should be needed to operate devices. Developing better voice-recognition systems is strongly desirable.

This is covered in the point above. Ford has developed the SYNC system for the new 2012 Ford Focus but it is also expected to arrive in other new Ford cars such as the Ford B-Max mini-MPV.

3 – Key functions that you need to access every day need dedicated buttons (radio station/CD track selection, air circulation and heating controls), rather than being buried in on-screen menu systems.

While the Ford SYNC system comes with a touch screen only, each option is designed to be as simple to find as possible with bold colour-coding and as few buttons as usual to access the correct part.

4 – Steering wheel controls should be placed in convenient locations on the front of the wheel

Ford SYNC comes with steering wheel controls on the front of the steering wheel in the new Ford Focus and helps to operate the system using five-way control buttons capable of scrolling through the options in while still keeping your eyes on the road.

5 – Entering satnav destinations should be disabled when moving

The satellite navigation controls can be entered on the move with Ford SYNC but this can be done via voice commands if necessary. Ford has revealed that next generation versions of the SYNC software will be capable of disabling features in necessary – but this will be down to the driver.

6 – Centre console displays should be placed high up, so the driver doesn’t have to glance down at them. Smaller second screens in the instrument cluster (or a head-up display) are useful for showing key journey information and ‘next turn’ navigation prompts.

The Ford SYNC system comes with a 4.2-inch screen in the instrument panel and an eight-inch screen on the centre stack. These can be customised to place the key features in plain view of the driver so that he or she knows exactly where they are.

7 – Pairing a mobile phone to the car via Bluetooth should only be permitted while stationary

This is not a feature on the Ford SYNC package but some things are down to drivers and they must take responsibility for their own actions. However, Ford does plan to introduce blocking technology in future.

8 – Drivers shouldn’t be able to initiate phone calls while driving, other than via voice control. Accepting a call should also be simple


9 – While on the move, the car should ‘read out’ SMS messages rather than display text on a screen

Ford SYNC’s main feature is its clever voice control that can answer phonecalls, call people or even read out text messages on the move for the driver, ensuring their conversation remains on the road.

10 – Any internet, email, social media and TV/DVD functions should only be accessible when stationary

Ford SYNC will include blocking options in future but with the use of voice activation, easy-to-read screens and steering controls, the new Ford Focus is one of the safest and least distracting cars on the market today.

For more information on Ford Focus prices or the latest Ford SYNC news, contact your nearest Ford dealership.