UAB TRIP Lab: Smart watches becoming driving distraction

According to UAB's TRIP Lab, smart watches are becoming driving distractions.
According to UAB's TRIP Lab, smart watches are becoming driving distractions.(WBRC)
Published: Jun. 12, 2022 at 8:14 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 12, 2022 at 9:59 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The number of traffic fatalities increased across the country last year, including in Alabama.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes killed more people in the United States in 2021 than any year since 2005. NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.

Benjamin McManus, the assistant director of UAB’s Translational Research for Injury Prevention Laboratory (TRIP Lab), says though it wasn’t as high as the national increase, Alabama saw six percent more traffic fatalities in 2021 than in 2020.

When asked about any new distractions the TRIP Lab has noticed in recent years, McManus said smart watches are becoming a distraction for drivers on the road.

Not only do they light up when you get a notification, they can vibrate too. The watches are constantly demanding your attention.

McManus says they work just like a cell phone by taking your eyes off the road. He wants to remind drivers that hands-free doesn’t always mean mind-free.

“Even if both of our hands are on the steering wheel, as it would be the safest solution, if our mind is not on the drive, if we’re thinking about a conversation, we’re thinking about a schedule, an event, an email, whatever it might be,” he said. “Whenever our thought is not on driving, that’s going to slow down our reaction time and any other aspect of safe driving behaviors.”

McManus says the best thing to keep you and your passengers safe is to keep your mind and your eyes on the road.

Only a few seconds of distraction could be fatal.


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