A Canadian Student Has Been Fined $400 for Apple Watch-ing and Driving

Lest you think using your Apple Watch is a way to skirt Ontario’s distracted driving laws.

A student at the University of Guelph has been fined $400 after she was caught by a campus police officer glancing at a glow on her wrist. The officer says she looked up and down at the watch several times and didn’t continue on the road after the light turned green until he flashed his cruiser light into her car.

In April, the student was charged with driving while holding a hand-held communication device under the Highway Traffic Act. She alleges, of course, that she was simply checking the time.

The charge was recently upheld after a Guelph justice determined the Apple Watch to qualify as a hand-held device.

“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,” wrote Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps in the 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.”

While the student and prosecution didn’t dispute the details of the incident, it was unclear whether the law would consider the Apple Watch as a hand-held device. The defence had argued to consider the device in the same regard as a bluetooth headset, which is legal to use while driving.

“It is abundantly clear from the evidence that [the student] was distracted when the officer made his observations,” reads the ruling.” And therein lies the distinction.

According to provincial data, one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour. In addition, a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road. According to the provincial government, penalties for distracted driving range from $490 to $2,000, and can include jail time up to 14 years if careless driving causes death.