Drivers are distracted by smartwatches, but what does Australian law say about their use?

Drivers are distracted by smartwatches, but what does Australian law say about their use?

Tech Highlights:

  • The Australian National Crash In-Depth Study estimates distraction is the main contributing factor in approximately 16 per cent of serious casualty road crashes across the nation. Further findings in the Journal of Safety Research say distracted driving can be as dangerous as drink driving. An overhead shot of a young woman wearing a white t-shirt, blue stripes, hands on steering wheel, a smart watch on her wrist. Ms Helliar says she knows people who are more distracted by their watch than the phone.(Supplied). “If you can’t use your phone [while driving], then how can you still be allowed to use your watch if it has the same devices and ability to be distracted as your phone does?” Ms Hilliar said.

  • A smart watch’s vibrations, sounds, and lights may be just as distracting, but there is no explicit regulation governing their use. Susannah Hilliar, a Queensland driver, says that her smart watch has gotten the best of her. “I discovered that whenever I was driving, and especially when I was sitting at traffic lights, if I received notifications, I would simply quickly check it,” Ms Hilliar said. “Even though my phone was turned off, I found myself utilising it fairly regularly.” With her hands on the steering wheel, a woman in a car smiles at the camera.

“If anything, I know people that are more distracted by their watch than they are by their phone.” Survey shows how many wear smart watch Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios from Queensland University of Technology conducted a survey of 1,200 drivers Australia-wide, which concluded in January. He said 13 per cent of participants used a smart watch behind the wheel. “Of course, there will be situations where a driver may use this form in a very risky way that should be made illegal,” Dr Oviedo-Trespalacios said. “For example, if you are reading a text message on your smart watch, that should definitely be prevented because we know that a glance off the road for more than two seconds increases crash risk exponentially.

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