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Apple Watch review: this will be a nightmare for driver safety

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Unveiled Monday in San Francisco, the Apple Watch is arguably the most distracting device ever created. And it’s going to be a nightmare for drivers.

“But your honor, I was just checking the time.”

Somewhere, sometime soon, that defense will be heard in a courtroom from an owner of an Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch, of course, is not really a watch. It does, however, tell the time. To within 50 milliseconds of UTC – the universal time standard, in fact.

The Apple Watch, which was unveiled Monday in San Francisco, features a customizable watch face, an activity app, and supports touch navigation. It has a heart rate monitor. It gently “taps” you when you have an incoming message. It has a scrolling “Digital Crown” that allows the user to zoom in and out of Apple Maps.

It is, in short, the most distracting device ever created. And it’s going to be a nightmare for drivers.

“Now it’s on your wrist. It’s not in your pocket or pocketbook,” said CEO Tim Cook before unveiling the various models of the Apple Watch. “We think the Apple Watch is going to be integral to your day.”

A large portion of Apple Watches, presumably, will end up on the wrists of drivers, and that is bad news for the rest of us.

Look around you the next time you are in your car. The anecdotal evidence you will undoubtedly see confirms the data: distracted driving from devices has reached an epidemic level.

According to Alberta Transportation, distracted drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a crash. Okay, that could mean a lot of things, from children to eating, to putting on makeup. What happens when we drill down on devices specifically? The news gets worse. Much worse.

According to a study Virginia Tech Transportation Institute drivers who use their phones to text message are 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near crash.

23 times.

The Apple Watch doesn’t support physical texting, instead it will use a microphone and a group of pre-set responses. But the myriad of touch screen enticements will almost certainly make the device as dangerous as texting, says one expert.

“An iWatch has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device,” said Neil Greig, director of Policy and Research for the Institute of Advanced Motorists said before the device’s release. “Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.”

As for the defense that a user was just checking the time there is a sliver of good news. Greig says that ploy will likely be solved by the device itself, which will tell investigators how it was being used.

“The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you,” he said.

Of course, a ticket for distracted driving is actually a successful outcome. Newspapers are littered with examples of bad examples. In Arizona, which is one of six states that has yet to ban texting while driving, distracted driving is a hot-button issue.

“Eight seconds is what it took to kill my brother, DPS Officer Timothy Huffman,” said Warren Huffman, twin brother of an officer who was killed when a tanker truck struck his patrol car, told the Senate Government Committee. “Eight seconds is what this driver of this truck took away from his view of the highway and instead was looking at Facebook.”

Back at the Apple Watch press conference, the words of Tim Cook seem almost ominous when paired against what we know about distracted driving.

“The Apple Watch is the most personal device we have ever created,” he said. “It’s not just with you, it’s on you.”

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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