Using an Apple Watch While Driving May Be Illegal

Using Your Apple Watch Behind the Wheel Could Equal Big Fines

Bradley Gordon

If you’ve been using your Apple Watch while driving your car, you might want to reconsider. A Canadian man, Jeffrey Macesin, was recently fined $120 for using his Apple Watch behind the wheel.  According to a news report, Macesin had his phone in his bag, and was just using the Apple Watch to change the song that was playing through his car stereo. 

Under section 439.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety code, however, what Macesin was doing was illegal.

According to the code, "No person may, while driving a road vehicle, use a handheld device that includes a telephone function."  Since the Apple Watch performs some telephone-like features then it technically falls under the law and could get drivers a ticket.

While Macesin got the ticket, he might be able to fight it in court so he doesn’t have to pay it.  The traffic lawyer who commented on case says that a smartwatch should technically be considered a “Bluetooth device” rather than a phone. Canada recently adjusted its laws to allow drivers to use Bluetooth devices while they drive. 

In another case in Victoria, police indicated that drivers are now allowed to use anything behind the wheel that might distract them from the road. Their list includes smartwatches, as well as GPS devices and other electronics. Police in Victoria said that drivers don’t have to physically remove their smartwatches before  they start driving, but they shouldn’t let notifications that come in while they’re behind the wheel distract them from the task at hand.

Touching the watch to accept calls or check texts and other notifications would constitute breaking the law.

If you need to use some of your phone’s functionality in the car, Apple has a solution coming soon: CarPlay. A number of car manufacturers have already agreed to offer CarPay in their vehicles, with more models likely to be announced next week at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

 

With CarPlay, your phone is paired with your vehicle, bringing much of your phone’s functionality to your vehicle. The center console in your car takes on the look and feel of your phone’s home screen, and buttons on the screen allow you to do things like control your music and make phone calls.

CarPlay also has Siri integration, so instead of touching the screen you can just say aloud what you’d like for your car to do. Siri can do most of the same things she can already with your Apple Watch or iPhone. You can ask her to place a phone call, help you find a place to go to dinner, or to text a friend and let them know you’re running late.

For now, most of the cases of drivers getting in trouble for using their watch behind the wheel have occurred in Canada. That doesn’t mean we won’t see similar issues in the United states and other places in the world as the smartwatch starts to gain popularity. In general, it’s always a good idea to stay focused on the road when you’re driving, whether it’s against the law to use your device or not.