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Don't let Android Wear distract you in the car

Distracted driving is worse when your device is always out and always on

Make no mistake — we're pretty psyched about Android Wear here at AC. We see the potential, the way it can change the way you use your Android smartphone, and how convenient things can can be when the info you need or want is at the end of your arm. But we also see some issues that need addressed by both the people making the new hardware as well as the people using it.

The biggest one, in my opinion, is a matter of public safety. Android Wear makes it even easier to take your eyes off the road.


Even lawmakers have an acceptable level of distraction

We're all mostly responsible people here. We know that when we're driving, our attention needs to be on the road at all times. Of course, we're also hypocrites of a sort — who hasn't changed the radio station or reached for a bottle of water while jamming down the road at speeds fast enough to do some serious damage should we hit something or someone? We'd be lying if we said that none of us has ever let something other than the road in front of us catch our attention.

But not all distractions are equal. Tapping a button on your steering wheel to change the radio station or the track on a CD isn't the same as reading the newspaper or playing Angry Birds on your tablet. Even the lawmakers out there have an acceptable level of distraction, and in most places you can tap a button on a Bluetooth speaker while driving, for example, and still be in control of the driving situation in their eyes. We agree. Those of us who do a lot of driving likely use Bluetooth to take calls or hear messages, and think it's a good middle-ground between 100 percent focus on the road and driving distracted and dangerously.

Ain't nobody got time for Hall and Oates

not all distractions are equal

Android Wear, though, is not a Bluetooth speaker. It's a glowing screen right where you can't help but notice it, and it vibrates to make sure you know it wants attention. When it demands you look at it, you almost look out of instinct. It's buzzing on your wrist because you told it to buzz when things happen that you think are important. If you give in and take a peek, you're going to have to touch, swipe, and read. That combination while behind the wheel will lead to bad results eventually.

I'm not going to shrug off the personal responsibility factor here. Each and every one of us using Android Wear is fully capable of ignoring it while we're driving. If we don't, we're putting ourselves and others at risk. I want to think that all of us feel this way, and we'll never tap, swipe and read a notification on our watch while we're driving. But I know that's not true.

OK Google navigate me to safety

it's up to each of us to police ourselves

Manufacturers and Google need to build a sort of driving mode into Android Wear and take this temptation away. I've said the same sort of thing about Google Glass. Unless you make it easy to stop distracting people behind the wheel, some people will be distracted behind the wheel. In fact, I'd love to see a developer build a car mode app for Wear that kills notifications and only displays the time or a speedometer so if we do look at our watch we won't see anything significant.

Maybe something like this is in the works at Google, or third-party developers have an answer in the works and we just haven't heard about it yet. Maybe not. For now, it's up to each of us to police ourselves. If you just can't help but look when the little box on your wrists demands, take it off and put it in your car's console or glove box.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Great write-up. Asking people to police themselves and be responsible adults is multitudes better than asking for laws to enforce said rules.
  • That is why the 10 commandments work so beautifully... Oh wait.. Posted via Android Central App
  • WWDVD? He'd simply make them have devices that stop transmitting after 20 KPH. There'd be no vote. It'd simply come to be. And if they didn't like it he'd make them using a simple- what we shall call "wireless" chokehold. Problem solved. Lives saved. (Darth Vader)
    Posted via Ash William's Boomstick
  • What about passengers in the car, they are not allowed to use their devices? It is sad when people advocate external controls to not only modify behavior, but remove all choice. So, while some people may be okay with other people making decisions for them; I am not. Finally, using any device that distracts your (notice, I didn't say, _may_ distract you) is not responsible. This is likely the last work that needs to be said about it.
  • Yeah, and I would be quite perturbed if I couldn't get turn-by-turn directions anymore while the car was moving. And anyway, didn't they prove that in LA, with a cell phone ban while driving in place, it did nothing to decrease the number of accidents/deaths?
  • This is correct. Reason being, it's not that driving one handed is dangerous. It's that taking your mind off the road is dangerous. Whether you're holding a phone or talking into a Bluetooth device, you're equally as distracted.
  • Pretty much as bad as drunk driving actually, Mythbusters proved it beautifully, it shouldn't even be an argument. I do disagree with having self enforcing devices tho, since it impacts passengers etc... Maybe having that functionality as an OPTION (possibly enabled by default) would be as far as I'd go. Nanny states don't work tho...
  • Train, bus, plane? Posted via Android Central App
  • Driving while Texting is Six Times More Dangerous than Driving while Drunk Texting in cars and trucks causes over 3,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year in the US. There should be strictly enforced laws against texting while driving similar to driving while intoxicated laws including like penalties for those causing injury or death.
  • Don't worry. The beaurocrats will soon enough make laws banning the use in a motor vehicle. Posted via my Motorola Startac
  • Probably. And it will not only NOT work, but not make any sense either. It is impossible to ban everything that can distract drivers. We will have to ban food, radios, pens, passengers, books, makeup, regular watches, maps, drinks, briefcases, purses, pets, medication, etc, etc, etc. Public awareness, service messages, training, and enforcing generic good driving RESULTS are the only things that are going to work. If the police would stop obsessing over only speeding and tags and look for and pull people over for following too closely, lane drift, not using turn signals, over-breaking, sleeping lights, crossing multiple lanes, erratic behavior, etc... we would be a lot better off.
  • Actually, when radios were first installed in cars, there was a petition to ban them because it causes distractions. So the ban hammer is nothing new when it comes to drivers being distracted. The thing is just because you or I won't check our Android Wear while driving, Jane Smith has little Jimmy in the car and she's running late to take him to school and she's running late to work as well. That vibration goes off and bam. Now little Jimmy is dead and Jane Smith is on an "It can wait" commercial. Posted via Android Central App
  • Do laws keep people from using their phones while driving? Mostly not. The people who choose not to text while driving do so because they don't want to take the risk of getting in an accident.
  • Absolutely agree. So laws stop murder? No. People choose not to commit it. Same way people choose to not use their phone or text whilst driving. I can count on two fingers the number of times since the advent of mobile technology I've been in a phone call whilst driving. Both of those were the same trip, and both involved consent for my 10 day old daughter to have emergency open heart surgery (the actual surgery itself changed between calls hence the requirement for a second call to reconfirm consent). Could those calls have waitied to be answered? In my opinion no. Did I know before driving that they may come through? Yes. Was the situation avoidable? No.
    But in the majority of cases yes they can be.
    Imo the only way round it is Bluetooth headsets and if you really feel you can't live without knowing the content of every text message, an app or whatever that will read it to you, should you choose to tell your device to do so via an audio command. (I'm not really up on apps so I have no idea if one already exists.) Posted via Android Central App
  • That thing is hideous for starters ....I agree with another commenter .. .the people who are allowing themselves to be distracted will continue to do so regardless of any laws ...which I rarely see enforced to begin with ...I drive for a nationally known company on the major artery of East Coast daily ...people are STILL driving with phone in hand ...
  • Little Jimmy is probably more distracting than anything else in the car. Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App
  • God forbid! Banning people from being distracted while driving? Oh nos! Posted via Android Central App
  • Hmm. You realize the watch already has a DND mode that is easily accessible that gets rid of all notifications right? I use this when I'm at restaurants, movie theaters, etc. I don't use it while driving because I use the watch for navigation instead of looking at my phone.
  • I would love to see more polished "driving mode" apps. I don't hit the road often, but when I do I combine the use of GoogleNow, S Voice, Tasker, and Wave Control to make sure I can control everything I want hands-free. I haven't spent much time reading up so maybe there's already a solution, but it goes to prove it isn't simple enough for the average user. If you could easily automate driving mode, then your Android Wear could simply sense that and go into its own driving mode - I guess I'll leave that up to the developers.
  • You must be the most interesting man in the world.
  • Sarcasm is easy.
  • Hands-free, yes. Also eyes-free.
  • Maby an NFC tag on the steering wheel? Which triggers a "driving mode" or something
    Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • Actually I don't even know if any of the watches have NFC but bluetooth could still work Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • Sony smart watch does Posted via Android Central App
  • So no smart watch does.
  • Could not agree more. It is actually more distracting than looking at a phone.
  • I agree with it all.... or I would if I didn't want to be able to use Wear as a music remote in the car (and other places). I'd love to set music as the active app and have that stay over everything while I'm driving. But yeah, we need something. It can't just be an honor system with the DND mode. Maybe Moto Assist could tell the 360 it's in Driving mode and enable it by default?
  • This is why I don't bike anywhere near the road. All bike paths should be way far away from the road anyways. I use to enjoy biking but now when I'm biking every thought in my head is wondering if there is some anti-brainiac behind me looking at a text. Posted via Ash William's Boomstick
  • My work at hospital does not allow me to have cell phone on display and thus my Gear Live is perfect for getting around it. To everyone else, it looks and displays like a watch. Ian B
  • Let's all remember that common sense is not all that common. Also, we are humans and we make mistakes. Not that long ago I left a store and was on the phone with my mom; it was an intense conversation and I just automatically got in the car and started. Distracted by talking to her , I skidded through a stop sign I hadn't noticed until I heard honking! I was still the parking lot; the driver honking had remained stopped and prevented an accident. My mom was shocked at what happened, which I explained when I got home, because I only ever have my phone out when using navigation and she gets irritated that I'm not responding to her calls or texts (not aware I'm driving). I am on my phone constantly, but I have a very good habit of putting it away in the car; this incident was totally out of the norm for me.
    The navigation app Waze has a protective measure that disables it if you try to enter a destination while the car is moving, which you must respond immediately that you are a passenger to continue. Seems like a fairly simple safety feature that could be loaded to phones to detect movement based on GPS. As a passenger you could react to a time sensitive alert and/or unlock the program. As a driver, it could pause notifications, send automatic repliesto texts that you are driving, and give an option to answer a call via Bluetooth or notify caller you are driving, and place an emergency call (something as simple a design as changing the radio station) Considering the technology we already have, seems plausible. If we did a better job policing ourselves, there wouldn't need to be more laws, and there wouldn't be so many fatal accidents involving cell phone distractions.
  • Agree. Technology and regulations must be implemented to help people from typically making stupid mistakes that endanger the lives of innocents.
  • I actually bought my gear for this reason. Instead of pulling my phone out of my pocket I can just glance at my wrist while driving my car or bike, or answer a call on my wrist while keeping both hands on the wheel. That's my take on it though. Posted via Android Central App
  • I really hate people who are texting,reading,playing games on their phones when driving. Same for women putting on eye liner,lipstick or anything else,same for guys who read newspapers,magazines and crap like that. There is nothing that is that important to do on a cellphone that can't wait,or pull over. Personally,I feel that if caught doing this,the fines should be $5000 first offense 1 month driving suspension,
    2nd offense $10000 6 month driving suspension 1 year no mobile devices,3 offense $25000 fine, 6 months in county lockup permanent loss of driving privileges. This is regardless of who you are,with no reduction of the sentence. No probation,no mercy. The penalty for killing someone while on the phone in a moving vehicle death by hanging no commuting of sentences. If people are too stupid to put the damn phone down and take responsibility for their lives and those around them.....they don't deserve any mercy. You can't stop stupid people from being stupid,but you sure as heck make them pay for it. Posted via Android Central App
  • Totalitarian "solutions" never work bud. And even if they did, it's not a world you'd want to live in.
  • Well in that case, why punish murder, rapists, thieves, etc? It doesn't stop others.
  • People don't rape, kill, nor pillage one another because there are consequences for doing so. You think there aren't consequences for raping someone in the absence of governmental law? People argue that governments keep people safe.... Have you checked the short history of humans? Governments are responsible for the worst atrocities. They kill and are held accountable by no one. So... if you want to argue in favor of being safer, I'd suggest waking up to the realization that government is not the answer.
  • Meaning that you text and drive then correct? Posted via Android Central App
  • No way... I'm not skilled enough to drive well without looking at the road. I'm not a fan of anyone driving while texting but I certainly wouldn't request laws to enforce my wants.
  • Yes they do need to be harsher but $£5000 is ridiculous. Few people can pay that. It would be much more reasonable to have harsh community service sentences. Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • "we also see some issues that need addressed by both the people making the new hardware as well as the people using it" I'm glad you mentioned the part about "the people making the new hardware". Too many times problems are being 'fixed' at the wrong end, aka, the consumer. If you give people a choice, they will make the wrong one. Just look at drunk driving. Anyways, in the not too distant future, cars will be driving themselves anyways. Great article.
  • The problem is, the people who read this and agree with it are probably already doing things to limit the amount of distractions while driving. Its the morons that think they can drive safely through anything that are the ones who cause the damage(I'm only talking about damage due to distracted driving, not damage due to being stupid). There are morons who think they can down a six pack of suds, chase it with a pint of vodka and still get behind the wheel and drive safely...while texting. Those people aren't going to listen to any safety notice or any amount of reason. Those are the people who make it necessary for lawmakers to pass all those laws...laws that don't stop those people either. As long as humans are behind the wheel, there really is no solution to the problem.
  • Damn that thing is huge..
  • TWSS Posted via Android Central App
  • What car's that in the picture? Posted via Android Central App
  • It's a flavor of Jeep I'm betting. Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App
  • That gear looks HUGE on Jerry's wrist. Android Wear first generation is too big and unrefined for mass popularity. Thank goodness for early adopters usage and paying to help refine the technology. I would be surprised if Apple released something as garish as this.
  • We as users need to be more aware of our surroundings. I will do my part to ensure the safety of others! Fait Accompli
  • Sad that we live in a state that requires articles like these to be written Posted via Android Central App
  • From my cold dead wrist... Posted via Android Central App
  • using a smartwatch for driving navigation seemed strange to me when it was shown off but for public transport and walking it's perfect
  • The notifications don't bother me at all, it's the screen that lights up by the flick of my wrist on the gear live right in my view while my hand is on the steering wheel. It's very distracting... Is there any way to turn that off or any app that will help me out? Great write up btw Posted via Android Central App
  • The law against texting while driving is practically unenforceable. Half the people I see on the road are looking down at their phones while driving. Do they realize how obvious they are? Things will, I believe, improve in the near future, as technology evolves to where the driver can get information hands free and eyes free. This is becoming available to some extent - google maps navigation for instance. Soon we will be able to access information conversationally while keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. (It's amazing what I can do now just with Motorola Touchless Control, Google Now, and Utter!) Compliance will come with convenience - when the overwhelming temptation to look at the phone has been eased by natural language access via voice-to-text interface. When the casual user can successfully speak requests their phone and receive information in response, we will have arrived. Star Trek will have come true once again. ;)
  • But do you think Captain Picard would listen and converse with a personal message during a battle? During a meeting? While eating dinner with a friend? Probably not. Yes, technological solutions can help... but the real problem under all this is that people now seem to have little self control and as a result are dangerous and rude.
  • Ehh, I think society eventually self corrects, sorta like nature. It might take a decade of senseless accidents and deaths but yeah... It's just a shame innocent people get hurt in the process.
  • I completely agree with your last sentence but your analogy is about 98% flawed.
  • This is what scares me about all the electronic devices nowadays. I used to be a limo driver and some people just plain suck at driving. No other way to put it. This stuff is all they need.... Posted via Android Central App
  • Meh, a lot of people suck at driving even without the electronic devices :D Posted via Android Central App
  • In terms of distractions to drivers, I think a child (worse still two or more) in the car can make any form of concentration impossible. Perhaps they should be kept in sound proof boxes in a trailer towed BEHIND the vehicle, to prevent such distractions. The same goes for many passengers IMO. Meanwhile - under UK law, if I use my phone for navigation I can't touch it, even to increase the volume in order to hear instructions. Something I might do specifically in order to keep my eyes on the road! So the legal situation has already become insane. Google needs to get the self driving cars on the road quickly; I don't think we will be allowed to control vehicles ourselves much longer.
  • And of course we never see police pissing about with their radios or their surveillance society info-tainment touchscreens n5
  • I'm sorry Jerry but what the heck do you think the mute function is for?? And everyone else commenting on needing enforcement, people can crash on any distraction whether that be kids in the back, chatting on the phone, looking at pretty girls on the sidewalk etc. The only way to prevent it is through self control or self driving cars. At least the watch has a mute function for driving. This is a complete non issue!
  • I have to agree. We seem to be trying to legislate against everything. It's ridiculous. n5
  • One issue here, they have to make sure it wont affect the passengers. It would be great if it could know youre a passenger or the driver. why punish the passengers.
  • Let me just say this. If you're a passenger in the car and the drive is not minding the road; That driver is a threat to you. If you're not punishing the driver and instead also on your phone, you may deserve the punishment as well.
  • They should've used different hands in the pictures!!!
  • Lately, I've been seeing more and more distracted drivers on the road with not even a decent common sense to watch the road more than their devices. On two occasions, I was almost broadsided if it wasn't for the lane dividing guides that tell you through your tires that you're leaving your lane just this July. In another, I followed behind a vehicle where two folks spent more time on their phones than actually watching the road for almost an hour from Yuba City to Sacramento. I respect everyone's idea of policing themselves, I do. And to date I've not so much as given anyone the bird for being so irresponsible while driving. But, and I haven't really committed to this yet, I think it's time to start calling the CHP every time I see someone doing this. I'm not talking about the occasional person who gets a call and has to see who's calling to answer, etc. I'm talking about folks who are clearly not focusing on the 65MPH tonnage they are manipulating.
  • Agreed. If anything we should let the police do the policing and not our devices. Posted via Android Central App
  • If my future watch does anything like that, I'm going to look towards the dev community for a way to remove it. I think this idea is bullshit. If you're not responsible enough to not look at your watch until you're at a traffic light or stopped elsewhere then you don't deserve one. We shouldn't be taking things away from responsible people because some idiots are immature. Posted via Android Central App
  • Is it just me, or is Jerry got that on the wrong hand? It looks like it's on his right-hand, but set up to display for left-hand use? Posted via Android Central App
  • Who are we kidding here? Distractions is the digital age's drug. When you are addicted, common sense is out of the window.
  • They have built a driving mode into Android Wear. Drag from the top of the screen and mute it. When at destination repeat to unmute. Simple.
  • Perhaps the Moto 360 will leverage Moto Assist's modes. If your phone already knows what you're doing, it could certainly tell your watch.
  • The Moto X already has driving mode, so it's not a huge leap to think that it would be extended to the Moto 360 with this kind of feature, especially when the 360 is paired with the X. In fact, I'd be a little surprised if it didn't have some sort of driving mode. And it can always be dismissed from notifications on the phone, so passengers wouldn't "suffer".
  • Must be extra hard for you, Jerry, to take video of yourself looking at your smart watch while driving. :-) Posted via Android Central App
  • I have a solution for this. This is still a work in progress. Check out my app Undistract!