A judge in the Ontario Court of Justice ordered University of Guelph student Victoria Ambrose to pay a $400 fine, after determining that she had spent too much time staring at her smartwatch while being in control of a vehicle.
According to court documents, the woman was ticketed after a police officer noticed the glow from an electronic gadget coming from the woman’s car, which was stationary beside his cruiser at a red light.
The officer reported that he saw the woman look up and down at the device four times in 20 seconds, and then fail to move forward when the light turned green. The officer then shone a light into her car and she began to drive. When he pulled her over, he realized that she had been looking at an Apple Watch.
In Ontario, it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices, such as smartphones, portable media players, GPS systems and laptops.
Previously, the province had not designated the Apple Watch or other smartwatches as being illegal to use while operating a motor vehicle. However, in judging Ambrose’s case, Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps rejected her argument that the Apple Watch being on her wrist satisfies an exemption for devices securely mounted inside the vehicle.
“Checking one’s timepiece is normally done in a moment, even if it had to be touched to be activated,” said Phillipps.
“Despite the Apple Watch being smaller than a cellular phone, on the evidence, it is a communication device capable of receiving and transmitting electronic data. While attached to the defendant’s wrist, it is no less a source of distraction than a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist.
“The key to determining this matter is distraction. It is abundantly clear from the evidence that Ms. Ambrose was distracted when the officer made his observations.”
Safety tests carried out in the U.K. in 2015 concluded that using a smartwatch while driving is more dangerous than using a smartphone.
According to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), a driver reading a message on an Apple Watch would take 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency maneuver, whereas a driver talking to another passenger reacts in 0.9 seconds.