The long awaited Apple Watch launched this week to the usual tech industry fanfare. Smart watches have been around for a couple of years but now that Apple are involved wearable tech is about to go mainstream.
But this presents a major problem - it is currently perfectly legal to drive a car whilst using a smart watch, and yet they are more dangerous to use when driving than a handheld phone.
Department For Transport Have No Legislation for Smart Watches
Mobile phones were banned in 2003 from use whilst in charge of a vehicle but there is no legislation to prevent use of smart watches. And with a general election coming up shortly, that's not likely to change for quite some time.
In the meantime thousand more motorists are likely to be using Apple Watch when they go on sale on 24 April and recent research showed that they will increase driver response times threefold.
Driver Distraction is Three Times Worse With Smart Watches
The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in Wokingham, Berks showed that a driver reading a message on a smart watch would take 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency manoeuvre, whereas a driver talking to another passenger would react in 0.9 seconds. It was even found to be more distracting than using a handheld mobile (1.85 second delay).
For that reason car safety firm SmartWitness are calling for the Department of Transport to place an immediate ban on the use of smart watches by drivers. We don't want to sound like kill-joys and the health and safety police but there's no doubt that using smart watches whilst driving will cause serious accidents.
And with new apps and wearable technology being devised all the time there are going to be more and more distractions for motorists and it's going to be hard for legislation to keep up with. It's now time for the DfT time to put a blanket ban on all drivers accessing messages and calls whilst in charge of a vehicle.
A recent survey showed that over 500,000 motorists are still driving whilst using their mobiles, and in 2013 mobile phone use was a factor in 22 fatal collisions.
So if that's what's happening when they are banned, just think about what's going to happen when smart watches are effectively free to use when driving.
Driver Mode Function Needs To Be Added
We need to have a Driver Mode added to the smart watches and smart phones, much in the same way there's an Airplane Mode button which switches off messaging and calls during flights - and we need legislation to enforce it otherwise there could be a significant increase in serious road accidents and even fatalities caused by smart watches.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the Apple Watch was used in the TRL reaction test.