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Smart watches distracting drivers, but what does Australia's law say about their use? – ABC News

Smart watches distracting drivers, but what does Australia's law say about their use?
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Just one swipe of your mobile phone while driving can land you in big trouble, but what about that other pint-sized device strapped to your wrist?
The vibrations, sounds and lights of a smart watch may be just as distracting, but there's no specific law relating to their use.
Queensland motorist Susannah Hilliar admits she's been driven to distraction by her smart watch.
"I found that whenever I was driving, and especially sitting at traffic lights, anytime I had notifications, I would just quickly check it," Ms Hilliar said.
"I found I [was] quite frequently using it, even though my phone was off."
The Toowoomba resident said she took matters into her own hands to stop herself from glancing at her smart watch while driving.
"I cut back on certain notifications, cut back to just phone calls and text messages and … even then I found it too distracting," Ms Hilliar said.
"I just eventually stopped having any notifications on my watch at all … I only look at it to check the time."
In Queensland, there is no specific law relating to smart watch use, and hidden road cameras don't pick them up.
But Andrew Mahon from Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) warned anything that distracted a driver still attracted penalties.
"A lot of people do have smart watches nowadays, and they do connect those smart watches to their mobile phone, but it's actually not an offence to use your smart watch while driving," Mr Mahon said.
"We don't recommend people get distracted by things like smart watches,  and you can get other offences if you're not careful.
"For example, if you're using your smart watch, and you are swerving within your lane, you can get the offence of driving without due care and attention.
"That comes with a $551 fine."
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Other states and territories address smart watch usage via other legislation in which they can be considered as "mobile devices" or "visual display units". 
In Victoria, for example, if it is proven your smart watch led to careless driving, you could face a first-offence fine of $2,180.
In New South Wales, if a smart watch is used for mobile phone functions such as texting or social media, then mobile phone rules apply.
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.
"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.
"If anything, I know people that are more distracted by their watch than they are by their phone."
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.
"But again, we cannot rely just on police enforcement because there are so many distractions that cannot be easily captured with a camera."
Where the laws are clear are on mobile phones, hefty penalties apply to drivers who use them — in Queensland it's $1,033 and four demerit points.
Despite that, motorists are still being caught in huge numbers since the introduction of secret cameras late last year.
About 33,000 fines have been issued since November, according to data from Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads.
The ABC contacted the Queensland Police Service, which said legislation on the use of smart watches and technology while driving fell under the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
Dr Oviedo-Trespalacios said prevention was the key to driver safety.
"Distraction is not just about the device, it's not about the phone, it's not about the smart watch," he said.
"Distraction is about not paying attention to the road, and you can be distracted with so many things."
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