While technology has improved many areas of our lives, there is one part of day-to-day life where the advance of wearable technology poses many dangers: driving.
Ever since mobile phones started to become widely used there have been attempts to stop people from chatting, texting and browsing while in the car. Sadly accidents caused by such activities remain commonplace, as Traffic Cops will attest.
Now, another problem looms: smartwatches. With numerous devices popping up that can sit on the wrist and ping notifications and messages to the wearer, those behind the wheel face even greater likelihood of being distracted.
This is exactly what the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) fears, as it warns those embracing wearables, especially the new Apple Watch, to remember the law of the land.
Neil Greig, IAM director of Policy and Research, said: “An iWatch [sic] has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device. Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.
“Enforcement will be difficult for the police, but powers exist to seize and interrogate devices in the event of a serious crash. The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you.”
Underlining the risk such distractions pose, the IAM said that data from its simulator study on smartphone use between 2006 and 2010 found distraction from a mobile phone was a factor contributing to 1,960 road accidents where people were injured; this figure includes 110 fatal accidents.
Wearables could make this situation worse, the IAM added. “Constant alerts will require motorists’ regular attention. As opposed to using a legal hands-free piece of equipment the iWatch [sic] will require drivers to use two hands to operate the device – impacting speed, lane position and time spent looking at the road," it said.
The IAM noted that the Department for Transport has already confirmed that the Apple Watch will be treated the same as a mobile phone. As such, the penalty for using it behind the wheel is three licence penalty points and a £100 fine.
However, if the Watch causes death by dangerous driving a prison sentence of at least two years is enforced. Clearly, this is far too big a price to pay just to learn that someone on Twitter liked your picture of a cat. Watch the road, not your wrist.