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October 26, 2015

Smartwatches may Pose New Risks to Motorists

Call The Levin Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a Philadelphia auto accident attorney

Distracted driving has become a serious public health issue. According to statistics [1] published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 424,000 people injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers in 2013, up from the 421,000 people who were injured in similar accidents during 2012. With the recent release of Apple’s long-awaited Smartwatch, many people in the automotive and legislative arenas are concerned that these numbers may increase, as drivers learn to deal with another potential distraction – and one that is actually worn, rather than put in a pocket, glove box, or the seat next to you.

Internet-connected devices can be intrusive

Unquestionably, drivers were vulnerable to distractions long before the advent of internet-enabled personal devices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [2] (CDC), there are three main types of driver distractions. These are the following:

  • Cognitive distractions
  • Manual distractions
  • Visual distractions

As a result, distracted driving can take many forms, including the following:

  • Grooming
  • Looking at scenery
  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Applying makeup·
  • Looking for objects in the vehicle
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Reading
  • Dealing with children in the backseat

While these low-tech types of distractions are undoubtedly dangerous, the distractions caused by electronic devices that are connected to the Internet pose a special set of risks. For one thing, your email, social media alerts, calendar updates, and text messages are unaware of the fact that you are driving. For this reason, they can come at any time and may take a significant amount of willpower to ignore. Secondly, manipulating an electronic device requires a driver to look away from the road, use his or hands to manipulate the device, and think about what he or she is doing, thereby combining all three forms of driver distractions listed above.

Smartwatches may be more distracting than smartphones

Smartwatches are a relatively new technology that pairs with a person’s smartphone and is made to be worn on the wrist as would a traditional watch. These devices alert wearers to incoming calls, messages, emails, calendar events, and other notifications through sounds of vibrations. While it would initially seem that wearing a device would be less distracting than having to check a phone, a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom contradicts this assumption. According to a the Huffington Post, [3] the results of a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory indicates that checking a message on a smart watch took two-thirds of a second longer to react an emergency maneuver than it would had the driver been using a smartphone. When traveling at highway speeds, two-thirds of a second can mean the difference between a serious accident and a simple correction on the part of a driver.

The legality of smartwatch use by drivers is unclear

In an effort to curb the incidence of accidents caused by distracted driving, many states have implemented legislation that limits the way that drivers can use their smartphones and other electronic devices while driving. For example, Pennsylvania law [4] prohibits a driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device, which is defined as a wireless phone, PDA, smartphone, portable or mobile computer, or similar devices that can be used for instant messaging, texting, emailing, or Internet browsing. Whether Courts will interpret the law to cover the use of smartwatches is unclear and remains to be seen.

Accidents caused by smartwatch distractions are often actionable

Whether smartwatch use while driving is regulated or not, accidents caused by distracted driving will continue to result in legal liability on the part of the distracted driver. In almost every conceivable case, distracted driving constitutes legal negligence, [5] which means that a person injured by a distracted driver will often be able to recover for his or her medical bills, lost income, loss of quality of life, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and other losses. For this reason, anyone hurt in an accident in which they believe distracted driving played a role should contact a lawyer immediately.

Contact a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer to discuss your case today

Accidents caused by distracted drivers can leave victims with significant injuries and medical complications that may last for years. Thankfully, people who are hurt in crashes caused by drivers who are using smartphones and other personal devices are often legally entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania law. As a result, it is crucial for anyone that has been hurt in an accident to retain a lawyer qualified to represent people injured by the negligence of others. Call The Levin Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a Philadelphia auto accident attorney.

[1] http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paul-singh/apple-watch-driving_b_6849408.html

[4] http://www.justdrivepa.org/Traffic-Safety-Information-Center/Distracted-Driving/

[5]  https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence

 

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