Smartwatches could usher in a new era of distracted driving

The introduction of the Apple Watch is raising questions about distracted driving laws across Canada, including in British Columbia.

New technology is raising questions about effectiveness of current laws

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and the latest example of that seems to be the growing popularity of smartwatches, particularly with the recently released Apple Watch. For legislators and safety advocates, however, this exciting new technology poses significant risks in the form of distracted driving. Studies have already shown that smartwatch use while driving can delay a motorist's reaction time, thus increasing the chance of a car accident. According to the Globe and Mail, provinces across Canada are giving mixed signals about whether smartwatches are covered by existing distracted driving legislation.

Distracted driving laws

According to Global News, the British Columbia government already considers smartwatches as being covered by existing distracted driving legislation. Because, like smartphones, smartwatches are capable of composing, receiving, and sending text messages and emails, police in the province say anybody engaging with a smartwatch while driving could face a $167 fine and three demerit points.

Other provinces, however, are less clear on whether existing legislation is adequate for this new technology. Aside from British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia also say their existing distracted driving laws cover smartwatches. Many other provinces, however, only ban using "handheld" devices while driving, meaning smartwatches may fall outside of the scope of most distracted driving laws. Some provinces, however, such as Ontario and Saskatchewan, say that drivers could still face careless driving charges for using smartwatches while behind the wheel.

Less attentive drivers

The dangers of texting or using a smartphone while driving have been well documented, but smartwatches are a relatively new problem in the world of distracted driving. One recent British study, however, suggests that drivers using a smartwatch take about a second longer to respond to road hazards compared to those using a smartphone. People who use a smartphone while driving are already four times more likely to have an accident than those who don't use a smartphone, suggesting the risks from smartwatches are even more extreme.

While it may be argued that many of the smartwatch's features are voice-activated and thus safer, safety activists caution that hands-free devices can be just as dangerous as handheld ones. By being mentally engaged with any electronic device, whether it be a smartwatch or an in-car entertainment system, a driver's attention is diverted from the road, thus increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Car accident representation

With so many new dangers on the road, it is important to stay safe. For anybody who has been unfortunate enough to have been hurt in an accident, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help. While every case is unique, legal representation could help injured victims pursue the maximum compensation they may deserve, compensation that will likely be of great assistance during their post-accident recovery phase.

Keywords: distracted driving, smartwatches, reaction time, legislation, Car accident, driver's attention, Ontario and Saskatchewan