Christmas has been and gone and many of us may have received a new smartwatch to aid our fitness goals or to simply keep up to date with the latest technology.
Most smartwatches mainly allow you to check the time, reach fitness goals, and pay for goods. However, some are more advanced and allow you to receive notifications instead of having to dig your phone out of your bag or pocket.
But if you’re a driver, these features could land you in trouble with serious penalties. Depending on the severity of the offence, and the implications, checking your watch could land you with a £1000 fine or points on your licence. You could even receive a driving ban or jail time in some cases, so it’s definitely worth keeping it turned off to avoid distraction while you’re driving.
John Wilmot, CEO and founder of car lease comparison site LeaseLoco, has put together some expert advice on the laws around wearing a smartwatch while driving and what drivers can do to avoid getting in trouble or causing an accident:
Is using a smartwatch while driving against the law?
While there aren’t any laws around the use of smartwatches specifically, and the Highway Code doesn’t directly say whether it’s illegal or not, it does still fall under the same bracket as distraction behind the wheel.
This means drivers could face the same penalties as mobile phone users, again depending on severity. This could be anything from checking the time or a notification to answering a call through the watch.
What happens if you’re caught using your smartwatch?
If you’re caught using your smartwatch at the wheel, whether you’re actively driving, stationary at traffic lights or supervising a learner driver, you could get a minimum fine of £200 plus six points on your licence.
With twelve or more points resulting in a driving ban, it means just two instances mean you’ll face a full-on driving ban if caught. Those who have recently passed their test risk an immediate ban, as you aren’t allowed to get more than six points in the first two years of driving. Should this offence end up in court, you could see an escalated fine of up to £1000 plus a driving ban.
This is because using your smartwatch at the wheel may distract you, increasing the chances of an accident – which carries an even higher penalty. If there’s an accident and you’re convicted of dangerous driving offences, you could be at risk of a two year maximum imprisonment, an unlimited fine plus disqualification from driving.
Careless driving charges will result in an unlimited fine, a disqualification and between three and nine points on your licence.
How can you stop your smartwatch from distracting you?
With all of this in mind, it’s best to either take it off while driving or spend some time understanding your watch settings to minimise the risk of distraction while driving.
Driving and using any device – whether that’s a phone, tablet or smartwatch – could either cause a serious accident or land you in trouble with the law, so the best course of action is to avoid having devices around you altogether.
If you’d prefer to keep your watch on, you can turn on ‘do not disturb mode’ for a specified time period so it doesn’t notify you while you’re behind the wheel.
You could also turn off ‘Raise to Speak’ for Siri or ‘Wake on Wrist Raise’. For those with an Apple Watch doing longer journeys, it may be worth turning off iPhone mirroring so you just don’t get the notifications until you have stopped and can turn it back on.