Children's car seats have twice as many dangerous germs as the average toilet, a new study has revealed.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham took swabs from safety seats and discovered an average of 100 potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi lurking in each square centimetre. In comparison a toilet was found to contain around half that number - with just 50 germs in the same area. The bugs included bacteria that can lead to nasty illnesses, including E. coli and Salmonella. The survey of 2,000 motorists for Continental Tyres was supported by the team at Birmingham, who swabbed 20 cars and homes to draw their comparisons.

They found that our cars contain more potentially hazardous bacterial and fungal species than anywhere in our homes. The study also revealed that almost half of us regularly drive in vehicles full of clutter with one in 10 Brits having had an accident or near miss due to the mess in their car.

Mark Griffiths, safety expert at Continental Tyres said: 'Many people are driving around in vehicles which resemble a rubbish tip without realising the hazards. 'To stay safe while driving and avoid health risks drivers should regularly clean their cars inside and out. 'Clutter as well as germs can present a real hazard - for example a can or bottle rolling under a brake pedal would be very serious.' The research found that 60 per cent of motorists are totally unaware of the health risks a dirty car poses to them and their passengers.

Around one in five motorists tidy the inside of their car just once a year, typically prompted by an imminent visit to the garage.Our car footwell was the filthiest area, with several thousand bacteria for every square centimetre.

Old take-away boxes, CD cases, used tissues, maps and broken torches make up the bulk of the junk strewn around our vehicles. Dr Anne-Marie Krachler, from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham said: 'Cars can play host to a number of potentially harmful bacterial species.

'These germs can easily spread in cars that are not cleaned often, especially if you eat in the vehicle or leave litter and food.' Mr Griffiths, added: 'Most people wouldn’t dream of using their home as a dumping ground for rubbish as they do with their car. 'With real safety implications, it’s important car owners perform simple and regular maintenance on the inside, minimising the risks posed by both bacteria and clutter in the cabin.'

However, many Brits do take a dim view of people with dirty cluttered cars, with 40 per cent of us referring to them as ‘slobs’ or ‘lazy’. It’s also bad news for singletons with a messy car as 37 per cent say they would be put off someone they had just started dating if their vehicle was full of clutter.