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Smartwatches to pose driving risk, warns IAM

The latest piece of wearable technology from Apple will allow users to make and receive calls, check their messages and monitor their health by operating the device on their wrists.

However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that drivers caught using the technology behind the wheel will receive the same penalty as if they were using a mobile phone.

And the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) warns that this could significantly impair driving performance – being a major cause for distraction and road accidents.

Existing research conducted by the IAM simulator study on smartphone use between 2006 and 2010 found distraction from a mobile phone was a contributory factor in 1,960 road accidents that resulted in injuries; this figure includes 110 fatal accidents. Having a wristwatch linked to the user’s mobile phone suggests a higher proportion of drivers’ performance will be significantly impaired.

Constant alerts will require motorists’ regular attention. As opposed to using a legal hands-free piece of equipment the iWatch will require drivers to use two hands to operate the device – impacting speed, lane position and time spent looking at the road.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: ‘An iWatch has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device. Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.

‘Enforcement will be difficult for the police, but powers exist to seize and interrogate devices in the event of a serious crash. The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.