Most states now have laws on the books that prohibit smart phone use when you’re behind the wheel of a car: no texting, browsing the internet, checking your email, or engaging in any other behaviors that will take your eyes off of the road and lead to distractions. Unfortunately, many of those states lack similar laws about devices like smartwatches—which, as it turns out, can be just as distracting as smart phones. In some cases, smartwatches can be even more distracting than smartphones.
The Distractions Presented by Smartwatches
Most people recognize that their smartphone can provide a significant distraction when they’re on the road. In fact, some even go to the extreme of turning the phone off or tucking it in the back seat instead of keeping it with them when they’re in the driver’s seat. Most drivers, however, aren’t thinking of their smartwatch as a distraction—including a June 2018 case of a driver who was ultimately fired for distracted driving after he was caught looking at his smartwatch. How distracting are smartwatches? There are several things to consider for drivers and passengers.
You have to take your hands off the wheel to move your watch into view. Sure, you don’t have to make big steps to look at—typically, notifications and other information just scroll across the screen—but you do need to raise your watch to eye level in order to read those notifications. Not only that, in order to operate many smartwatches, you may actually need both hands: you’ll use your right hand to press the buttons on the watch, while the left hand needs to raise in order to operate the watch and make it easier to see. As a result, you may catch yourself doing gymnastics behind the wheel—and that can lead to distraction or even accidents.
Notifications are difficult to avoid. Once you’ve received a text or another notification on your smartwatch, it can be difficult to avoid noticing it. Your wrist is buzzing, beeping, flashing a light, or, in some cases, all three. That can be a difficult temptation to avoid. Unlike smartphones, which can easily be left in inaccessible areas of the car, it’s much less likely that you’ll take your smartwatch off of your wrist when you get behind the wheel.
Smartwatches may take your eyes off of the road longer. Many smartwatches have much smaller screens than the smartphones you’re used to using every day. As a result, you may find yourself taking your eyes off of the road longer to watch a text message or other notification scroll by, rather than taking the quick look at your phone that would have allowed you to absorb all of that information.
Operating Your Smartwatch While Driving Is Distracted Driving
No, there aren’t yet specific laws on the books that mention smartwatches or identify them as something that can cause distracted driving. The reality, however, is that if you’re looking at your smartwatch while you’re behind the wheel, you are engaged in distracted driving. This can lead to serious consequences throughout the Chicago area, including:
Tickets for distracted driving. If a police officer notices that you’re distracted behind the wheel, whether you’re looking at your phone or your watch, you can receive a ticket for distracted driving. Not only will this mean paying a fine, it may also mean points on your license that could ultimately lead to the need to attend traffic school or even the revocation of your license.
Increased risk of accident. Any time you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around you when you’re driving, you increase your risk of accident behind the wheel. Car accidents can occur in the blink of an eye. They are expensive, both in terms of immediate financial expense and long-term increases to your insurance. Not only that, auto accidents can lead to serious injuries, which can mean excessive medical bills, time off work, and the potential for long-term or permanent disability. With enough points on your license, you may even lose your right to drive as a result of your actions.
No one wants to believe that it will happen to them. After all, you only took your eyes off of the road for a second! Unfortunately, accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, often leaving injured parties struggling to recover. Even one second with your attention off the road can be catastrophic—and learning to keep your eyes off of your smartwatch is one of the most effective ways to avoid it.
Avoiding the Distractions of Smartwatches Behind the Wheel
If you have a smartwatch, chances are, you’re already familiar with how easily it can capture your attention. Avoid being distracted behind the wheel when you follow these important steps to reduce smartwatch distraction.
Turn off notifications. Notifications are one of the most distracting features of many smartwatches—and because they’re right there on your wrist, they can be even harder to ignore than your smartphone. Luckily, notifications are fairly easy to turn off, making it easier to keep your attention on the road.
Take it off. Toss your smartwatch in your cup holder or another location just like you would your phone. Chances are, your car already has a clock in easy sight—probably one that’s much easier to look at than your watch. All the rest of your watch’s functions can wait until you’re no longer behind the wheel.
Learn to ignore it. Like your phone, your smartwatch isn’t telling you anything that you have to pay attention to immediately. Learn to ignore those critical distractions, making it easier for you to focus on what’s going on in your vehicle instead of what’s happening on your watch.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident? Get Legal Help.
If you’ve been injured in an accident where the other driver was distracted due to a smartwatch or other device, make sure you get the legal help you need. Contact Abels & Annes online today, or call at (312) 924-7575 to schedule your free consultation or to learn more about what our associates can do to help you recover from a serious accident.