One of the most sought after devices for technophiles and fashionistas alike in 2015 is the smartwatch. These gadgets, manufactured by tech giants like Apple, Samsung, LG and Sony, naturally do more than just tell time, allowing users to talk and text, surf the Internet and download various apps.
As impressive as these features are, there is now growing concern that they are the next in a long line of products with the potential to divert the attention of drivers, greatly increasing the likelihood of fatal car accidents.
Are smartwatches dangerous?
While more definite research is forthcoming, at least one study by researchers in the United Kingdom found that it took a driver reading a text message on a smartwatch an average of 2.52 seconds to respond to an unexpected event and that he also drifted out his lane multiple times while attempting to navigate the smartwatch's features.
These results would seem to mirror the conclusion of at least other 30 studies, all of which have determined that hands-free devices in general are not necessarily safer given the level of cognitive distraction involved.
How many people are actually wearing smartwatches right now?
The numbers are somewhat low right now, but industry experts indicate that this will change over the coming months, reaching as high as 28 million by the end of the year.
Have any states taken action to ban the use of smartwatches by motorists?
There are currently no state laws that expressly ban people from using smartwatches behind the wheel and it doesn't appear that any are forthcoming.
If such laws were in place, would they be helpful?
Any laws banning distracted driving are helpful given their deterrent effect. However, experts have indicated that distracted driving laws targeting smartwatches would likely be very difficult for police to enforce given that, unlike talking or texting, there are no obvious signs that a motorist is using a smartwatch. Indeed, a motorist reading a text may look like they are just checking the time.
We can only hope that the road safety issues presented by smartwatches are minimal, and that people finally start to get the message that distracted driving in any form -- whether by hand-held phone, hands-free device or smartwatch -- is unacceptable.