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Friday, May 29, 2015

Driver is Fined for Using His Apple Watch While Driving

As reported by Engadget: Now that electronics manufacturers are releasing more and more smartwatch models, you might be wondering what the authorities' stance is on using one while driving. Well, this clears things up a bit for our Canadian readers: a man named Jeffrey Macesin was recently pulled over and fined $120 for using his Apple Watch behind the wheel. Macesin told CTV News Montreal that the watch was inside a bag, and that he was only changing songs on it at that moment, since it was plugged into the car radio. He thought the cop only wanted him to get out of the way when he turned the cruiser's lights on, but the officer obviously thought the device was a cause of distraction.

In the end, he got a ticket under Section 439.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code, which states "No person may, while driving a road vehicle, use a handheld device that includes a telephone function." Technically, smartwatches aren't handheld devices, but it has an LCD screen and smartwatch-like features, so they fall within a grey area. A lawyer who specializes in traffic violations, Avi Levy, told CTV News he believes a smartwatch is a Bluetooth device instead of a handheld, and "it has been established in the law that you're allowed to use Bluetooth devices and it doesn't constitute an infraction."

In at least two other locations, New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, cops made it clear in April that if you use a smartwatch while driving, you could face penalties.

A study by the U.K. Transport Research Laboratory found smartwatches are far more distracting than smartphones. According to the Huffington Post, the research found it takes 2.52 seconds for someone to react in the event of an emergency after looking at their smartwatch, compared to 1.85 seconds if they were using a handheld cellphone.

With this data and citing the fact that only more distracting apps are bound to come on the market, Paul Singh, CEO of the vehicle safety company Smart Witness, called upon the U.K.’s Department of Transportation to “place an immediate ban on the use of [smartwatches] by drivers.”

“We don’t want to sound like kill-joys and the health and safety police but there’s no doubt that using smart watches whilst driving will cause serious accidents,” Singh wrote for the Huffington Post.  Singh’s post noted that the U.K. banned drivers from using handheld phones in 2003.

In the U.S., only 14 states have banned handheld cellphone use all together. However, 44 states have banned texting while driving.

There do not appear to be any proposed bans on driving and using a smartwatch in the U.S. yet, but last year, there were several bills introduced that proposed making it punishable to drive and use a Google Glass device.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. in 2012 in accidents caused by distracted driving.