SGIO road tests point to GPS distractions for Western Australian drivers

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SGIO is urging WA drivers to consider the positions of their portable GPS units after running road tests to investigate their impact on driver attention and safety.

Our road test results found that when drivers used the portable GPS unit over a 35km route they glanced at it around 90 times for 1.2 seconds on average, so when travelling at 60 km/h they were looking away from the road for up to 19 metres at a time – or more than four car lengths*

SGIO Car Insurance is urging WA drivers to consider the positions of their portable GPS units after running road tests to investigate their impact on driver attention and safety.

The research revealed that the GPS units were taking drivers’ eyes off the road for a significant length of time and that the position of the unit in the car could also impact on driver safety.

SGIO Car Insurance's senior research manager Robert McDonald said the road tests exposed the real risks of glancing at a GPS continually while driving.

“Our road test results found that when drivers used the portable GPS unit over a 35km route they glanced at it around 90 times for 1.2 seconds on average, so when travelling at 60 km/h they were looking away from the road for up to 19 metres at a time – or more than four car lengths*,” he said.

“Losing focus even for a second while at the wheel puts us at higher risk of having a collision and in-car distractions that encourage us to combine another task with driving, such as a GPS, can unintentionally distract drivers from keeping their eyes on the road.”

The research also used laser angles to reveal that the least safe positions for a portable GPS unit were in the centre of the windscreen under the rear-vision mirror or directly in front of the driver, as these locations could block the field of view, creating large areas invisible for the driver.

Mr McDonald said the safest position for a portable GPS unit was in the right front lower corner of the windscreen, as of the positions tested, it created the smallest blind spot for the driver**.

“The position of your GPS is critical to being safe on WA roads as we regularly see drivers with a
GPS blocking their view and creating an invisible area in front of the vehicle on the road,” he said.

“If you need to enter a location, study the GPS map or consider the GPS directions you can simply pull over and adjust it in a safe place.”

“We’d also urge drivers to learn to rely on the voice directions rather than looking at the map as it’s too distracting to be repeatedly looking at the screen while also focusing on the road ahead.”

SGIO Car Insurance offers some simple tips to drivers who use a GPS:

  •     choose the automatic lighting option – it will select the most suitable setting for the conditions
  •     and prevent it being too bright at night;
  •     enable a warning if you try to access the screen while driving;
  •     ensure the GPS unit is positioned in your line of sight but not blocking your field of view.
  • Six drivers (aged 27 to 59) drove an unfamiliar urban route of 35km using the same GPS unit while driving at speeds under the posted speed limit. Their faces were filmed with eye movements recorded – a single eye movement is referred to as a ‘glance’.

** Four GPS unit positions were tested. Laser angles were recorded at each corner of the GPS unit to calculate the invisible area the GPS unit projected onto the road in front of the vehicle.

About the Author

SGIO is a leading insurance provider, offering Car Insurance quotes, Home Insurance, Motorcycle Insurance, Travel Insurance, Business Insurance, Boat Insurance, Health Insurance and Caravan Insurance in WA.

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Rob Cory
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