Drivers warned over smart devices

Drivers warned over smart devices

Drivers have been reminded of the dangers of using a handheld phone or smartwatch while behind the wheel.

Using a smartphone can slow a driver's reactions by as much as 2.5 seconds, according to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

It has conducted a number of studies into driver distraction, and has found that although people are texting less while driving, they are instead using their phones to access social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It is illegal to pick up or hold a mobile phone while a car is running, but the law surrounding smartwatches is less clear. It is legal to drive while wearing a smartwatch, but currently there is no specific legislation for wearable tech.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) says: "Drivers must give their full attention to the road, which is why it has been illegal since the 1980s to view a screen while driving a motor vehicle, unless that screen is displaying driving information. There are no plans to change this."

Motorists who are caught using a handheld phone while driving face a fine of £100 and three points on their licence.

Professor Andrew Parkes, chief scientist at TRL, believes people who are distracted by smartphones do not react to what is happening outside the car at all, which raises the risk of road accidents.

"The issue isn't so much that people's reaction times are much slower, it's that people who are distracted by smartphones completely miss entire events," he says.

He adds that people using smartphones on the road also have greater difficulty keeping their car in one lane, and thinks smartwatches will only make matters worse.

"These watches have very small screens, which take longer for the eye and brain to adjust to. Add in the fact that people will typically hold up a watch in front of their face when they want to read it and you have the potential for drivers to be very distracted indeed."

Copyright Press Association 2015 (Department for Transport)