Think you can check the time on your Apple watch while driving?
Wearable technology is still considered a distraction. Just ask Victoria Ambrose, a student at the University of Guelph, who was charged in 2018 under Ontario’s distracted driving law.
In 2009 the Highway Traffic Act was amended to account for the growing use of mobile phones. The laws consider reading, eating, using your phone and even using your GPS as inattentive driving. Ontario further strengthened its existing fines and penalties as of January 2019.
According to Guelph Today, Ambrose claimed in a statement she was only checking the time. Apple watches require the user to tap the device. Ambrose argued she wasn’t even connected to her smartphone at the time or any other external device.
Saw glow of watch
The officer stated he noticed the glow of the watch and that Ambrose was looking up and down at the street. When the traffic light turned green, she didn’t start driving through the intersection until he shined his cruiser light into the car.
Following a hearing on May 16, 2018, Justice of the Peace Lloyd Philipps delivered his ruling. He didn’t buy the student’s arguments.
“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,” Philipps stated in his ruling.
“While attached to the defendant’s wrist it is no less a source of distraction than a cell phone taped to someone’s wrist. It requires the driver to change their body position and operate it by touch,” he continued.
“The evidence before me is that an Apple Watch is capable of receiving and transmitting electronic data. Ms. Ambrose testified that the watch was not connected to her phone, which was in the car with her at the time. It is abundantly clear from the evidence that Ms. Ambrose was distracted when the officer made his observations,” he stated.
Ontario Provincial Police say distracted driving continues to be the No. 1 cause of accidents in the province. People may not think of it in the same category as drunk driving, but it’s actually worse.
Linked to 738 deaths
As of August 2018, 31 people had already lost their lives in the collisions that year. And, 1,051 of the incidents left people with injuries. Over the past 10 years, distracted driving has been linked to the deaths of 738 people on OPP-patrolled roads.
This January, the existing fines and penalties for distracted drivers in Ontario increased. First-time offenders face fines up to $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. Repeat offenders face fines up to $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension for third-time convictions.
For novice drivers who still don’t hold their full G or M licence, there is not a fine or demerit points lost but the time for a suspended licence is longer. First time offenders automatically receive a 30-day licence suspension, second time offenders will have a 90-day suspension and a third conviction will result in the driver’s licence being cancelled altogether.
And, it goes without saying, these charges have the potential to affect your auto insurance premiums. Keep the roads safe and leave the electronic devices for later!