If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two years, you should be aware of most of the new devices that are changing how we interact. We have watches that let us do everything our smartphones do and more. And we wear glasses that allow us to snap photos, use apps, and even scan the internet.
As expected, the popularity of these wearable devices has grown by leaps and bounds since they were first introduced. Twenty percent of Americans already are using one or more of them, and that growth shows no signs of slowing or stopping. In fact, the global wearable market's expected to grow to $34 billion by 2020.
A lot of that growth is likely to come from millennials. They’re currently the leading buyer of wearable devices, after all. Beyond that, it is estimated that 50 percent of this demographic will buy fitness bands—Fitbit is a one well-known example—next year. Another 23 to 40 percent plan to purchase another form of wearable technology.
As for US consumers as a whole, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that 70 percent would use a wearable device provided by an employer. They’d only do so, though, if the gathered data helped lower their insurance premiums.
So, already the insurance implications and benefits of these wearable devices are clear. But some other factors are clear too. One is the risk to insurers because the watches, glasses, and fitness bands in question make it more likely someone will drive while distracted.
What is Distracted Driving and Why Do Wearables Make it Worse?
Distracted driving happens when something takes a driver’s attention away from the road. This could be anything from the radio, other passengers, messing with the air conditioning, or talking and texting on the phone. (To learn more about the risks of distracted driving, read our article about it.)
In 2014, 3,719 people died from motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. Another 431,000 sustained injuries.
There’s no way to tell how many of those crashes, injuries, or deaths were caused by younger drivers. Still, there’s little doubt they’re among the most distracted drivers on the road. Consider that 74 percent of millennials say they’ve texted while driving. Which explains why 38 percent of distracted drivers in their 20s are involved in fatal crashes.
That National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistic could go from bad to worse in the coming years. Again, millennials are the largest group of consumers purchasing wearables. This makes them even more likely to get into a car accident due to distract driving.
Why Can’t—or Won’t—Laws Stop This?
Unfortunately, the legal system isn’t going offer much help – at least for the foreseeable future. Though most laws prohibit distracted driving in the form of talking and texting on the phone, they don’t cover wearable devices because they’re so new.
Many law enforcement agencies and related organizations are pushing to get these gadgets added to distracted driving laws, though. Some states are taking action as well. For example, a new Pennsylvania law prohibits drivers from using cellular devices while driving. Still, even this piece of legislation doesn’t explicitly mention smart watches.
Of course, legislation alone won’t stop people from using wearable devices while behind the wheel. In fact, according to the NHTSA, "public education, good laws, good enforcement and, more than anything else, personal responsibility are key to reducing these crashes and related deaths."
It's true that these products are cool. Many of them even promote healthier lifestyles. But they also increase the risk that someone will drive while distracted. Because of that, it’s probably only a matter of time before companies factor this into what they charge for car insurance.