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Police warn drivers about Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is due in February 2015

Police are concerned about drivers using Apple Watch while behind the wheel.
 
The Apple iPhone 6 -- with a choice of two new large screens -- goes on sale across Australia today, but police are concerned about the Apple Watch due in February 2015 and the adverse impact it may have on driver safety. 
 
The Apple Watch and other smartphone watches such as the one made by Samsung will be "next to impossible" for police to enforce if they’re used while driving as they are a "wearable device", according to senior highway patrol police. 
 
However drivers will still be able to get a ticket under distracted driving laws.
 
"There is no doubt there is potential for distraction if a driver has a message beep at them on their watch phone," said a high-ranking NSW highway patrol officer. 
 
"Drivers will be tempted to take their eyes off the road to check the message," he said. "Drivers might not be booked under mobile phone laws but they can be booked for not paying due care and attention, or booked under driver distraction laws."
 
The fines for dangerous driving are as severe as, if not higher than, those for using a mobile phone.
 
In most states and territories, driving while using a mobile phone attracts a penalty of three demerit points and about $300, but in Victoria the fine is $433 and four demerit points.
 
When asked about the legality of Apple Watch and the Samsung watch when used as a mobile phone, Queensland Police issued the following statement: "The Queensland Road Rules which apply to using a mobile phone while driving do not apply to a smartwatch. However drivers could be charged with not having proper control of their vehicle and driving without due care and attention, should they drive erratically or become distracted."
 
At a stretch, drivers could also be booked under the laws covering display screens that can distract drivers.
 
The exact wording of the laws vary slightly in each state and territory, but according to the Australian Road Rules: "A driver must not drive a motor vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen is visible to the driver from the normal driving position."
 
This law was intended to cover TV screens and DVD players but could be used to book a driver using a smartwatch given that it has a display screen.
 
Last month a study found one out of every three young drivers admitted to taking a "selfie" behind the wheel.
 
A survey of 7000 drivers aged 18 to 24 found that texting and talking are only part of the dangers posed by smartphones in cars.
 
According to a survey commissioned by Ford of Europe, one-in-three young British drivers admitted to taking a "selfie" while on the move, ahead of those in Germany (28 per cent) and France (28 per cent).
 
Meanwhile, just as many young drivers admitted to using social media apps or websites while behind the wheel.
 
The survey found that taking a photo can distract a driver for 14 seconds, enough for a car travelling at 100kmh/h to cover the length of more than three football fields.
 
A study by Monash University in Melbourne found drivers are 2.8 times more likely to crash when dialing a phone than when driving undistracted.
 
"Any distraction while on the road is dangerous, particularly for inexperienced drivers," said the chief executive of the Australian Automobile Association, Andrew McKellar. "(But) taking a photo or a selfie while driving is extremely dangerous."
 
In December 2012, 20-year-old Brooke Richardson crashed at 100km/h near Cobram on the NSW-Victoria border moments after sending a text message.
 
The coroner found she dropped the phone, bent down to pick it up and swerved to the wrong side of the road and hit a tree.
 
The death came one month after the NSW Government launched its "Get Your Hands Off It" campaign.
 
In August 2013, 26-year-old Sarah Durazza died after crashing her car into a tree on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
 
Her boyfriend told police he was talking to her on her mobile phone at the time of the incident, and heard the impact.
 
Meanwhile, Mr McKellar said most young drivers are unaware of the penalties they are risking.
 
To remove any ambiguity, the laws in most states and territories have changed to make it illegal to even handle a phone unless it is in a secure cradle or windscreen mounting.
 
Many states also ban P-Plate drivers from using a phone even when used with a hands-free device.

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