The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that any driver caught using Apple’s new iWatch wearable technology behind the wheel will receive the same penalty as if they were using a mobile phone.
The new “smartwatch” was announced this week and allows wearers to read text messages, make phone calls and browse the internet on the device.
The wristwatch is wirelessly linked to the user’s mobile phone, which supplies the data connection to surf the web and make and receive calls.
Speaking to Auto Express, a DfT spokesperson said the Department was investigating “further options” in terms of penalties and deterrents for the future.
However, it’s thought current laws surrounding the use of mobile phones while driving are adequate and far-reaching enough to apply to wearable “smart” technology.
It means if drivers are caught using the iWatch when in control of a car they could be liable to a £100 on the spot fine and three penalty points on their driving licence.
Although the user may not have to physically hold the device to use it, this is not the main reason for the proposed penalty.
The extra mental effort it takes to talk on the phone while driving, combined with the physical distraction of the technology, means a driver’s concentration levels and mental capacity to process information in front of them is drastically reduced.
“Using a mobile phone or any device that distracts a driver while driving is extremely dangerous and is already illegal,” the DfT spokesperson continued.
The fine for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel was increased from £60 to £100 in August 2013 and now the DfT is exploring new sanctions to even further deter drivers from using technology on the move.
However, it may prove difficult to police use of the iWatch. Current UK traffic law states that drivers are allowed to use hands-free devices, such as voice activated Bluetooth systems and sat navs.
The new Apple timepiece has the capability for hands-free use, which means officers might find it a challenge to prove a driver was physically manipulating the device.
Apple’s iWatch debate is not the first time wearable “smart” devices have proved controversial, after a female motorist in the US was prosecuted for riving while wearing Google Glass.
The ticket was later rescinded after it was proved not enough evidence was available to categorically state the motorist was indeed using the device while driving.