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Distracted Driving Series: Is the new Apple Watch a driving hazard?

Apple gave the world a peek at what could become the next must-have piece of technology, the Apple Watch. While it is true that various tech companies have tried--and failed--to market the smart watch concept successfully, Apple's concept design and brand power just may be able to pull it off. If Apple Watch is able to make the leap from hand-held devices such as cell phones to wearables such as Google Glass and as Smart Watches, then we are truly in a Brave New World.

And it is a scary brave new world where driving is concerned. The hazards of using hand-held devices such cell phones while driving have been well documented. Most states have laws regulating their use (either for calls, texting and/or emails). For instance, Georgia currently bans texting while driving for all drivers, and bans cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18, including hands-free devices. Distracted driving due to cell phone use, particularly texting, has been the subject of discussion in previous blogs by The Thomas Law Firm. But will those regulations apply to a cell phone that is a watch?

If the attempts to apply existing regulations to the other recently introduced wearable, Google Glass, are any indication, the answer apparently is no. When Cecilia Abadie was ticketed for wearing the infamous eyewear, she was cited under a regulation prohibiting the operation of a video screen when placed near the front seats where it could distract the driver. The ticket was ultimately dismissed because there was insufficient evidence to show that the "screen"--in this case Google Glass--was operating while Abadie was driving. The regulation did not prohibit simply wearing the technology.

But maybe new regulations should do just that. Some argue that having the equivalent of a mini-computer on your wrist is just too tempting to use, and therefore too much of a likely distraction to driving. Even if using the watch for a navigational system, or a similar driver assist app, the fact that the information is on the driver's wrist means that one hand must remain steady while the other hand accesses the information...which leaves no hand entirely devoted to driving. Add to that the fact that the watch and its design is new, and therefore a big learning curve will accompany its usage, and now a driver is fumbling with new apps on a small screen on his or her wrist while he or she is supposed to be driving.

These technical difficulties (pun intended) are only part of the danger associated with distracted driving. The primary issue is a person's attention being taken away from the job of driving. Google Glass is voice-operated, but with its range of functions going from email to videos, legislators are worried that drivers will focus on the content in their eyewear instead of on the road. As many as eight states have introduced legislation to regulate the use of Google Glass while driving, and other states are considering legislation.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that may have been caused by distracted driving, please contact The Thomas Law Firm.

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Thomas Law Firm
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