As Apple Inc. prepares to release the Apple Watch, British researchers now claim that drivers glancing at a smartwatch will pose a greater risk than those picking up their smartphones. While a number of laws throughout the U.S. and U.K. already ban the use of a phone while driving, the earliest evidence shows that newer gadgets like the Apple Watch could be even more dangerous for drivers.
Drivers reading messages on a smartwatch take 36 percent longer to react to emergencies on the road than those using a smartphone without a Bluetooth hands-free device, according to a study from the U.K.’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). Drivers in the study who read a message on a smartwatch took 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency situation like a pedestrian wandering into their path, while smartphone users took only 1.85 seconds.
The study also provides evidence that both smartwatches like the Apple Watch and phone use are more distracting than having a conversation with a passenger. However, the TRL has said that its research was not conducted using an Apple Watch, but an unspecified alternative. The study also had drivers read messages off of the smartwatch, when most such devices are capable of reading text messages aloud to drivers.
Apple plans to release its water-resistant gold watch edition for upwards of $17,000 in April, with less pricey models going for as low as $350. Google is already running its Android Wear software on alternatives from a number of manufacturers.