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Keep a Watch on Using Apple’s New Timepiece While Driving

The world’s tech media held its breath while Apple announced its new Apple Watch, or ‘iWatch’.

The Apple Watch has a lot of cool features squeezed into a small wristwatch, with phone capabilities, emails and text messages all included. It is also an extremely accurate watch and comes in a variety of attractive designs. It has a fitness tracker that can be used to measure your activities in a number of ways and many other apps are sure to follow. Apple is betting on the Apple Watch to be a compelling piece of technology, just as the iPhone or other smartphones are today, but that is where the issue may be for motorists.
Unlike the smartphone, which can be slipped into a pocket or glove box out of sight while driving, the Apple Watch remains on the wrist. Some motoring organisations have pointed out that this may prove to be a distraction to drivers, who may be tempted to interact with the watch. If they do, they could face up to two years in jail. The British Advanced Drivers’ Association warned against use of the Apple Watch while driving in a statement on Tuesday 16th September. The Department of Transport, meanwhile, confirmed that using the Apple Watch, or any other smart watch device, while driving will be considered by the police as exactly the same as using a mobile phone. This means that any driver who is convicted of casing a fatal accident while using one of the devices could face a two-year prison sentence. Drivers who are simply caught using the devices while driving will be hit with a £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence. 
Government statistics reveal that 54,000 accidents were caused by distracted drivers between 2010 and 2012. According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (AIM), the Apple Watch is just as dangerous to use while driving as a smartphone. A spokesman for AIM said: “The Apple Watch has the potential to be every bit as distracting as any other phone device, indeed even more so if you have to take your hand off the steering wheel to use it. The police currently have the power to seize and examine any such devices in the event of a serious accident. The very smartphone or watch that distracted you also has the potential to convict you. It has to be said that anything causing even a short distraction for the driver is not a welcome addition to motoring safety. While a smart watch may turn out to be the next cool fashion accessory, there is nothing at all fashionable about technology that distracts you when behind the wheel."
The spokesman continued: “The concern is that it’s Apple behind it. It’s therefore now heavily publicised and similar devices are sure to catch on and become widespread. The worry is that despite more and more functionality, drivers still need to pay attention to the road.”
He concluded: “It is possible that technology companies might think it’s not their responsibility to warn motorists of the dangers, but they need to be conveying a responsible message also. Enjoy this equipment, but use it in the right place at the right time.”
According to a survey by the RAC, some 34% of drivers are concerned about other motorists becoming distracted by mobile phones while behind the wheel. It is not just the motorists who are at fault, however, as pedestrians are also using the technology without proper attention being paid to their safety. Statistics show that one in seven people admits to crossing a road without looking up because they are using their mobile phones. This statistic is borne out by the 25% of motorists who claim that they have nearly knocked down a pedestrian because the pedestrian was too busy looking at their mobile phone to take notice of the traffic. Apple has yet to comment on the driving-safety implications of their new Apple Watch.

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