Even using hands-free may be dangerous

The law surrounding the use of new wearable technology in the car might be a grey area in Australia.

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But experts wholeheartedly agree that devices brought into the car by drivers can prove to be a deadly distraction, with some studies suggesting it is nearly as dangerous as drink-driving.

Michael Regan, Professor of Transport and Road Safety at the University of New South Wales, said even driving perfectly legally using a mobile phone hands-free can be dangerous.

Prof Regan, who has previously worked for Holden, said in-built car technology developed by major manufacturers and often placed on the dashboard or other parts of the vehicle, is generally quite safe.

“Talking actually consumes attention – it takes attention away from the driving task,” he told AAP.

“We know from simulator studies that if you’re talking on a phone you might actually see a pedestrian walking from out in front of a parked car, but you don’t actually respond, or you respond too late, because you’re talking.

“There is plenty of research to suggest that even talking on hands-free is dangerous.”

Prof Regan cited recent research by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre that concluded that up to 65 per cent of accidents requiring victim hospitalisation involved inattention.

US studies have reached similar conclusions.

“There are some people that argue distraction is more dangerous than drink-driving,” Prof Regan added.

“I’m not sure about that because drinking has quite a profound affect on all sorts of behaviours, including inattention.

“But I’d say it (distraction) is up there with one of the more serious problems, along with fatigue and speeding and drink-driving.”

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