Drivers who cause fatal accidents while using smart watches behind the wheel will face up to two years in prison
Drivers who use the new Apple Watch behind the wheel face the same penalties as those caught using mobile phones, motoring experts have warned.
The announcement of the Apple Watch last week has fuelled concerns among motoring groups that drivers could be distracted at the wheel leading to a spike in road accidents.
The Department of Transport has previously confirmed that using a smart watch while driving will be treated by police in the same way as offences involving mobile phones.
Motorists face a sentence of up to two years in prison if the use of either device causes a fatal accident, and a £100 fine and three penalty points on-the-spot if drivers are deemed to be distracted by the gadgets while at the wheel.
The DfT said it would be up to police to judge whether or not drivers are distracted while using their watch to send messages, take calls or check the time.
Official figures show that between 2010 and 2012, more than 54,000 accidents were caused by distracted motorists.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), the road safety charity, has warned that the Apple Watch will be as dangerous to use behind the wheel as a conventional phone.
An IAM spokesman said: “An Apple Watch has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device, indeed more so if you have to take you hand off the wheel to interact with it.”
“Powers exist to seize and interrogate devices in the event of a serious crash. The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you.
“It has to be emphasised that anything causing even a momentary distraction for the driver is not a welcome addition.
“While smart watches might be the next big fashion accessory, there is nothing fashionable about a device that distracts you when behind the wheel.
“The concern is that it’s Apple doing it. It’s now widely publicised and they become widespread. The concern is that despite more and more functions, drivers still need to be paying attention to their driving.”
“It’s possible that manufacturers might think it’s not their responsibility to warn drivers about the dangers, but they need to be pushing the responsible message too. Enjoy this equipment too, but use it in the right place at the right time.”
The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2014 shows that 34 per cent of motorists are worried about other drivers being distracted by mobile phones while driving.
Meanwhile it has been revealed that one in seven pedestrians admits to crossing the road without looking while using their mobile phones.
More than a quarter of motorists say that they have nearly hit a pedestrian using a phone.
Apple declined to comment.