'A mobile phone taped to someone's wrist': Judge finds Apple Watch wearer guilty of distracted driving

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesApple Watch wearer.
  • A Canadian judge found a woman guilty of distracted driving for looking at her Apple Watch while at a traffic light.
  • The judge said the Apple Watch was no less distracting than “a mobile phone taped to someone’s wrist.”
  • It’s illegal in Canada to drive while using a hand-held communications device.
  • The woman claimed she had only been checking the time.

It’s probably a bad idea to check your Apple Watch while driving.

That’s the lesson from a Canadian judge who found a woman guilty of distracted driving for looking at her Apple Watch while stopped at a traffic light. He rejected her claim that she was only checking the time.

According to The National Post, part of the reason is because the Apple Watch has more features than your average watch. It is no safer to look at while driving than “a mobile phone taped to someone’s wrist,” the judge is quoted as saying.

The judge convicted Victoria Ambrose from Guelph, Ontario, of holding or using a hand-held communication device while driving, something that’s illegal under Canadian law.

According to the Post, Ambrose was stopped at a red light in Guelph in April when a local police officer spotted the glow of her Apple Watch. He reportedly testified that she looked up and down four times and, when the light turned green, she stayed stationary while other vehicles moved forward. The officer gave her a ticket, and she was fined $US400 ($US309/£232) for the stop.

But Ambrose had said she was simply checking the time – which on an Apple Watch can involve waking it up by tapping the screen. She also argued that a smartwatch isn’t a handheld device.

Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps disagreed and said it was “abundantly clear from the evidence that Ms Ambrose was distracted when the officer made his observations.”

According to 9to5Mac, Apple is already aware of the problem and may be working to fix it. The company was awarded a patent application last March for something that looks like a driving mode on Apple Watch, which would suppress “non-urgent” notifications such as email while the wearer is driving.

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