Smartphones have been illegal to use in the vehicle while driving here in the U.S. for years, and in the UK since back in 2003. In just the past year though drivers have had a new way to supplement their potentially dangerous habit of texting and driving with the arrival of wearables like smartwatches. Smartwatches provide hands-free communication, and it might be a bit more convenient, but are they safer? According to a new report and tests in the UK from The Transport Research Laboratory in Workingham, they’re actually less safe than using your smartphone to text while behind the wheel. Tests done by TRL found that drivers reading a message on a smartwatch were slower to react when needing to make an emergency maneuver, exhibiting a reaction time of 2.52 seconds, compared to the 1.85 second delay when using a smartphone to text or read a message, and the 0.9 second delay when simply talking to someone who was inside the vehicle.
Whether or not laws will be passed banning the use of smartwatches while driving in the UK is something that remains to be seen, but for now using your Moto 360, your LG G Watch R, or Apple Watch is legal while driving and some feel this presents a huge issue for motorists, both those using the devices and those on the road with them. The Huffington Post mentions that although smartphones have already been banned, legislation being passed to ban the use of smartwatches is likely not to happen for some time.
In the meantime, it’s being reported that an immediate ban on the use of smartwatches in vehicles is being called for by a car safety firm in the UK called SmartWitness, a move that seems to garner urgency as smartphone related deaths reached a number of 22 total incidents back in 2013 according to a recent survey, which is 10 years after the UK passed legislation making it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. The question now for many is whether or not other regions like the U.S. will take this information into account and run their own safety tests, if they haven’t started already, and whether or not they feel the same about smartwatch usage in the car. Do you feel smartwatches are just as distracting behind the wheel as mobile phones or other tech? Should there be a law passed to ban smartwatches while driving?