With many mobile companies such as Samsung having introduced smart watches and Apple set to join the race with the iWatch, this poses a new problem for traffic law. Are these smartwatches legal to use when driving?
The introduction of iPads saw traffic regulators needing to adapt to this new technology and it is currently an offence to use an iPad or a similar tablet behind the wheel. What does this mean for the iWatch and similar devices? The iWatch, and similarly the Samsung Gear 2, allow the user to send and receive messages, make calls and surf the web much like smartphones. Therefore, it has the same uses as a handheld mobile phone.
The Department for Transport has confirmed that being caught using such devices will carry the same penalty as using a mobile phone. This means that being caught behind the wheel unsafely operating a smartwatch could carry a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three penalty points. In more serious cases, it could be taken to court where drivers face disqualification and a maximum £1,000 fine.
However, it is currently legal to use hands-free phones and sat-navs when driving – both functions that the smartwatches are capable of. Therefore, an officer could be hard pressed to tell if it’s being used illegally. The law does state, however, that if police think you’re distracted and not in control of your vehicle they can still stop and penalise motorists.