Apple Watch: Is it a danger at the wheel for car drivers?

Posted on by Mike Evans

I thought it wouldn’t take long before the road safety lobby tagged on to the perils of the Apple Watch. Police in Adelaide have already jumped the gun and announced that the Apple Watch will be treated as a mobile phone. Not everyone agrees, many seeing the Watch as a Bluetooth accessory and no more distracting than, say, a pair of headphones or a phone display on the car’s entertainment system.

We need to tread carefully here. There are very good reasons why making phone calls and, worse, texting or emailing while driving is a bad thing. Already any accident investigation will examine phone records to see if any activity was taking place around the time of the crash. Phone calls can be distracting and I am not even sure that hands-free calls are that much safer than holding the phone in one hand.

On the other hand, I cannot see that glancing at a smartwatch is any worse than looking at a standard wrist-watch or, even, smoking at the wheel, something that road safety campaigners have been loathe to tackle. Here in the UK we can be prosecuted for taking a sip from a water bottle but not for driving with a cigarette in one hand. And what could be more distracting than a chatting passenger or a crying baby on the back seat.

It is impossible to remove all risks without banning music, radios, satellite navigation systems, eating, babies, smoking, sucking a mint. I’ve probably missed out a dozen threats to road safety.

The smartwatch is likely to be less of a hazard than some of these examples and I believe the road-safety lobby has to be realistic in its assessments of what is and what is not acceptable.