Research has shown that cell phone-related accidents account for 27 percent of all crashes in the United States. In fact, according to Automotive News, a significant 8.1% rise in traffic accident fatalities in the United States over the first half of 2015 is being attributed in large part to the use of smartphones. As new technology continues to grow, distracted driving will only become a bigger problem; smartwatches, the latest technological fad, are posing the latest threat.
A smartwatch straps to your wrist and tells time, but it also serves an array of other purposes. Smartwatches have introduced the new concept of answering calls and messaging right from your wrist. It will beep, light up, and vibrate on your wrist telling you who’s calling or emailing, alert you of a new calendar appointment, and deliver your latest messages. They can also play music and track fitness. Although it may be much easier to look at your watch than pull your phone out of your pocket to check a message, safety experts say the vibrations and sounds to get your attention are tougher to ignore and can lead to more dangerous and distracted driving.
A recent study, conducted in the United Kingdom Transport Research Laboratory, indicates that using a smartwatch while driving could be even more dangerous than using a smartphone behind the wheel. The study found that a driver reading a text on a smartwatch takes an average of 2.52 seconds to react to an unexpected event. That compares with 1.85 seconds for a driver using a smartphone and 0.9 seconds for a driver talking to someone else in the car.
As with smartphones, the dangers of using smartwatches while driving may not be the only problem. We have read numerous reports of pedestrians entering an intersection while talking on the phone or checking a text. There have also been cases of people distracted by a cell phone and falling into a fountain or into a ditch. It only stands to reason that these same incidents could happen if distracted by using a smartwatch.
There are currently no laws prohibiting the use of smartwatches while driving. Even if/when laws do catch up with these devises, it might not be enough. While police may be able to see a cell phone in a driver’s hand and issue a ticket, a smartwatch belongs on the wrist. It will be much harder to prove a driver was engaging in a dangerous distraction.
Should using a smartwatch while driving carry at least the same penalty as using a hand-held mobile phone? Will smartwatches make our roadways more dangerous? What do you think?
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.