Mike Stevens | Jul 30, 2010

A new study by insurer NRMA has found that without proper consideration for positioning and usage, GPS navigation units can be a dangerous distraction for motorists.

Testing six drivers over an unfamiliar 35 kilometre route, the study found that each person glanced at their GPS unit around 90 times for an average of 1.2 seconds.

The results show that, travelling at 60km/h an hour, the participants were looking away from the road at up to 19 metres at a time, or more than four car lengths.

"We want to make drivers aware of the risks of combining another task with driving. In-car distractions like eating, drinking or using a GPS device encourage the driver to take their eyes off the road. Losing focus for one second while at the wheel puts you at higher risk of having a collision," NRMA Insurance spokesperson Robert McDonald said.

"Drivers should learn to rely on the voice directions rather than looking at the map, it’s too distracting to be repeatedly looking at the screen while staying aware of the road and the other cars around you."

NRMA researchers also tested different mounting positions for the GPS devices, finding the lower right-hand corner of the windscreen to cause the smallest blind spot for the driver.

One of the more common positions - close to the dash, directly beneath the centre mirror - proved to be the least safe, blocking the driver's field of view.

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