Police chiefs expresses in-car navigation concerns

NSW traffic commander, Chief Superintendent John Hartley, is concerned about the safety of in-car navigation devices. If they could distract drivers they shouldn't be used while on the road, he said.

"Anything that would distract the driver is a danger and shouldn't be used while driving," Hartley said. "If they take the drivers attention off the road, even for a moment, they shouldn't be used at all."

His comments have raised the ire of manufacturers, who claim their products have a range of in-built safety functions and pose less of a danger than using a street directory.

With three in-car navigation devices on the market, TomTom country manager, Remo Behdasht, said the audible turn-by-turn instructions offered by the devices meant drivers were better able to focus on the road and traffic conditions.

"How many accidents happen because people are driving in places where they don't know the road system, and they take a wrong turn or change lanes too quickly," Behdasht said. "You need to ask yourself, what are the alternatives? In-car navigation is safer than balancing a street directory on your knee, or having it open on the seat beside you and looking down at it while driving."

In a similar vein Navman sales manager, David King, said all his company's products came with safety features designed specifically to prevent drivers from being distracted.

"All our devices come with a default which restricts their functionality when in motion," he said. "The idea is to program them before you leave and follow the audio instructions. While you're driving you can't enter any more information without overriding the function."

Hartley stopped short of calling for in-car navigation systems to be banned or restricted. But he did advise drivers to program devices before leaving for their destination and position them so they wouldn't be a distraction.