Hands-free apps are ‘just as dan­ger­ous’

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

APPS that dis­able phone calls and read out texts, tweets and emails when you are driv­ing are on their way to Aus­tralia.

How­ever, road safety ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Si­mon Wash­ing­ton says they may be just as dan­ger­ous as us­ing a hand-held mo­bile phone while driv­ing.

‘‘I have not seen a prod­uct in Aus­tralia yet that has come out to suc­cess­fully mon­i­tor phone use while driv­ing, but some are com­ing fairly soon,’’ the Cen­tre for Accident Re­search and Road Safety — Queens­land (CARRS-Q) re­searcher says. ‘‘They gen­er­ally work on a sim­i­lar prin­ci­ple of block­ing phone calls by us­ing the GPS to de­tect move­ment.

‘‘How­ever, that would pre­vent you (from) us­ing the phone when you are a pas­sen­ger.

‘‘There are more in­no­va­tive prod­ucts that read emails and text mes­sages, but I’m not sure it’s any safer as you are still di­vert­ing at­ten­tion from the driv­ing task.

‘‘Ev­i­dence doesn’t bear that out that it would be a risk-re­duc­ing de­vice.’’

Prof Wash­ing­ton says the US Govern­ment has banned all use of mo­bile phones by em­ploy­ees while us­ing fleet ve­hi­cles and some US com­pa­nies have fol­lowed suit.

As far back as 2002, Shell in­sti­tuted a ban on hand- held phone use and ex­tended that to in­clude hands-free de­vices in 2005, re­sult­ing in a 57 per cent re­duc­tion in crashes.

Phone apps al­low com­pa­nies and govern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tors to mon­i­tor whether their em­ploy­ees are us­ing phones while driv­ing and im­pose fines.

But Prof Wash­ing­ton does not be­lieve any Aus­tralian govern­ment or com­pany is con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar ban or mon­i­tor­ing pol­icy.

While ‘‘hands-free is just as dan­ger­ous as hand-held’’ he says ban­ning all phone use while driv­ing would be too dif­fi­cult to en­force.

‘‘The police say it’s too dif­fi­cult to de­tect now and that they only pick up a very small per­cent­age of of­fend­ers,’’ he says.

‘‘Driv­ers are gen­er­ally aware if there is a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer around.’’

He says the an­swer to dan­ger­ous dis­tracted driv­ing be­hav­iour such as tex­ting while driv­ing is not leg­is­la­tion or tech­nol­ogy, but ed­u­ca­tion. ‘‘Young driv­ers are the par­tic­u­lar of­fend­ers be­cause the pro­por­tion us­ing th­ese de­vices is re­ally large, so we need to cap­ture that mar­ket at the learn-to-drive stage,’’ he says.

‘‘If we can de­velop be­hav­iour in that age group they won’t do it when they are older.’’

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