Smartwatches are a marvel of modern technology, enabling users to use them as phones, send texts, track sleep patterns and other things. Unfortunately, they also are another gadget that can distract drivers behind the wheel of a car or truck. There is indeed hands-free usage, but a study out of the United Kingdom found that smartwatches are more dangerous than a regular phone.
Why so dangerous?
It comes down to the logistics of wearing a watch. Whereas a conventional cell phone needs only one hand to operate, one hand needs to touch the other wrist to operate the smartwatch. This essentially limits the use of both hands rather than the one. Of course, there is the added danger in both cases of drivers taking their eyes off the road.
There is also the temptation of a screen right in front of the driver’s eyes, either on the steering wheel or resting on their lap or an armrest. Whereas a handheld device is often in the driver’s pocket or purse, the tiny screen is out in the open on their wrist, illuminating when there is a call, text or notification.
California prohibits the driver’s use of devices in their hand for cell phone or similar electronic communication, only allowing for hands-free operation for drivers 18 or older. Smartwatches qualify as a hands-free device here in California, mainly when the driver operates it with their voice.
The upshot is that drivers are legally allowed to use a device more distracting than a handheld device while operating their vehicle. This detail is likely little consolation for those injured by a negligent driver looking at their watch.