Drivers warned over smartwatch use

Drivers warned over smartwatch use

Apple Watch wearers of the future are being reminded that using the device while driving will carry the same penalty as operating a mobile phone.

With features such as internet, apps and message updates, t he Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) warns that the next-new-thing device could "significantly impair driving performance".

The RAC meanwhile reminds drivers that there is "nothing fashionable" about a device which distracts drivers at the wheel.

The Government has confirmed that anyone found to be using a smartwatch while driving faces being handed three penalty points and a £100 fine; with a jail sentence possible if a user causes a fatal collision.

Certain functions of smartwatches - such as making and receiving calls, checking messages and monitoring daily health - all add up to being a major cause for distraction and road accidents.

The Apple Watch is different to road legal, hands-free pieces of equipment and will require drivers to use two hands to operate the device, all of which will have a knock-on effect on speed, lane position and road awareness.

Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, says: "There is a genuine concern here as driver distraction is a significant cause of accidents on the nation's roads. In fact the latest Department for Transport figures show between 2010 and 2012 distraction was a contributing factor in 56,462 collisions.

"The RAC's Report on Motoring 2014 reflects this concern as a third, 34%, of motorists we spoke to worry about other drivers being distracted by their mobile phones while behind the wheel.

"It may be that we are increasingly a nation of gadget lovers, many of which are beneficial to the motorist, but it has to be emphasised that anything causing even a momentary distraction for the driver is not a welcome addition.

"This is especially true of a watch because it would be so easy for the driver to take a quick look as it sits on their wrist, but then they may be drawn into reading a text or other content that takes their eyes off the road.

"While smart watches might be the next big fashion accessory, there is nothing fashionable about a device that distracts you when behind the wheel."

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, says a smartwatch and smartphones are one of the same in terms of potential distraction to motorists, particularly if a user has to remove their hands from the wheel or divert their eyes from the road.

And Mr Greig warns: "The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you".

Copyright Press Association 2014