Using smart watches while driving could decrease the driver’s attention and lead to dangerous traffic accidents, a road safety charity has warned.
The latest piece of wearable technology from Apple will allow users to make and receive calls, check their messages and monitor their health by operating the device on their wrists. However, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has warned that engaging with a gadget while driving could significantly impair driving performance, cause distraction and result in hazardous situations.
Existing research conducted by the IAM simulator study on smartphone use between 2006 and 2010 found distraction from a mobile phone was a contributory factor in 1,960 road accidents which resulted in injuries, including 110 fatalities.
The think tank has warned that with a wristwatch linked to a mobile phone, the temptation for the driver would increase, diverting his or her attention away from the road ahead towards the constant alerts on the gadget.
Unlike legal hands-free devices, operating the wristwatch requires the driver to use both of his hands. As a result, the driver may accidently leave the lane, exceed the speed limit or react to dangerous situations with a considerable delay.
The Department for Transport has announced that using an iWatch while driving will carry the same penalty as using a hand-held mobile phone of three penalty points and a £100 fine. As per the Crown Prosecution guidelines, however, where a motorist uses a mobile phone causing death by dangerous driving a harsher sentence of two years imprisonment is enforced.
“An iWatch has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device,” said Neil Greig, IAM director of Policy and Research said. “Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.”
Greig believes that police won’t face much difficulty to prove whether a driver involved in an accident has been reading messages on his iWatch as laws exist allowing the police to seize and examine a device in case of any suspicion.
“The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you,” he added.