In Depth

Apple Watch user fined for checking device while driving

Judge says smartwatch as much a distraction as ‘a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist’

An Apple Watch user in Canada has been charged with distracted driving for looking at the device while waiting at traffic lights. 

Victoria Ambrose, a student from Ontario’s University of Guelph, was spotted checking her smartwatch at a red light by a campus police officer in April, says the BBC

The officer told a court that Ambrose was so focused on her watch that she failed to move her vehicle when the traffic lights turned green. She finally pulled forward when the officer “shone a side light from the police cruiser at her car”, the broadcaster reports.

Ambrose said that she had been using the smartphone merely to check the time, which required her to double tap the device’s screen, says Canadian news site National Post. She also argued that because the watch was worn on her wrist, it was subject to an exemption in Ontario law which covers devices that are “securely mounted”.

However, judge Lloyd Phillipps rejected Ambrose’s argument and charged her under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act of 2009, which prohibits drivers from holding or using wireless devices while behind the wheel, the news site says. Ambrose was handed a CAD $400 (£230) fine.

“Checking one’s timepiece is normally done in a moment, even if it had to be touched to be activated,” said Phillipps. 

He added: “While attached to the defendant’s wrist, it is no less a source of distraction than a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist.”

According to Apple news site 9to5Mac, the company is working on a Do Not Disturb feature that will stop notifications from appearing on the smartwatch while the wearer is driving.

There’s no word yet on when it will be available, but more details are expected to emerge during tonight’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California.

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