According to a survey conducted by Halfords, some modern motorists suffer what the company has termed “dashboard dread” — a sense of anxiety caused by not fully understanding what all the controls in their car are for.

Halfords reckons that a modern car can have 14 different functions on the steering wheel alone, for everything for controlling the radio to activating cruise control. And, of course, there are the usual array of steering wheel levers, light switches and electric window buttons dotted around the interior.

Add in sophisticated in-car entertainment systems, parking assistance indicators and enough lights on the dash to simulate Blackpool Illuminations in miniature, and it’s reckoned there can be up to 50 different functions to figure out in the average saloon.

Out of the 2,168 motorists Halfords surveyed, 32% admitted to panicking if a red warning light came on, while only 24% claimed to know what every control in their car was for.

Almost 10% also said that they didn’t know how to turn on the fog lights, which is a little mystifying when you consider that by our reckoning, at least 50% of motorists don’t know how to turn them off…

Of course the real problem isn’t the complexity of modern car interiors, but the fact that so few motorists bother to learn what most of the controls and warning lights are for, or at least that appears to be Halfords’ finding.

Two thirds of the drivers it surveyed stated they had never looked at the car handbook — something that simply won’t be possible with the car dashboard of the future.

The study was commissioned by Halfords to alert motorists to new mandatory checks on warning light symbols, which are now included in the MOT test.

Rory Carlin of Halfords Autocentres said: “Many cars now have more warning lights than ever before, and we would encourage customers to check their meaning — especially as illumination of some of these lights can lead to MOT failure.”