Vias: ‘helmets with built-in infotainment systems can cause distractions’

With the arrival of spring, many motorcyclists are also jumping back on their bikes. Road Safety Institute Vias wants to warn motorbike enthusiasts about all kinds of distractions on their bikes, such as helmets with built-in infotainment systems.

Although there is no evidence that such systems can contribute to road accidents, Vias nevertheless calls for caution as the systems could pose risks.

Navigation system

More than half of motorcyclists (55%) say they use at least one infotainment system, according to a new study by Vias Institute. This mainly involves a navigation system or a handlebar-mounted smartphone. A quarter of drivers say they drive with a smartphone on the steering wheel. A smaller group rides with earphones (20%), an intercom (14%), or a small screen (8%) called a ‘Head-up Display’ built into the helmet.

Especially in the latter example, systems such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can be quite complex, making it difficult to perform certain operations and use specific functions.

Potential risks

Although there is no proven direct link to road accidents, the systems were found to pose potential risks. Indeed, when consulting those devices, riders turn their gaze away from the road and self-report not always noticing other road users or situations. Therefore, Vias calls for caution and recommends keeping the focus on “the primary driving task.”

At the same time, Vias says such infotainment systems can also positively impact. For example, they indicate the speed limit or provide timely information, reducing the need for drivers to change lanes suddenly. On the other hand, they can also create negative effects: turns are sometimes misjudged because they do not look as sharp on a navigation system, or riders can be distracted because they check social media or read text messages while riding.


Constantly alert

According to Vias, riding a motorbike safely requires more attention than driving a car. “For instance, motorcyclists need to be constantly alert for dangerous infrastructure, potholes in the road, and other road users. A mistake can quickly lead to a fall with potentially serious consequences,” Vias says.

Motorcyclists are the most involved in fatal accidents of all road users, although the number of accidents has decreased by 22% over the past decade. Just last year, 49 motorcyclists were killed. Most accidents happen between April and October. There were 538,536 motorbikes registered in Belgium last year, an increase of 19% over the past decade.


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