Using a smartwatch while driving could result in a distracted driving ticket

VANCOUVER – Police are warning drivers that using a smartwatch, while behind the wheel, could result in a distracted driving ticket in B.C.

Although a smartwatch, such as the Apple Watch, is not a handheld electronic communication device, it is an electronic device that can send or receive text messages or email.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, a “driver must not hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic computing device, one of the purposes of which is to process or compute data.”

Police agencies are trying to keep up with the latest technology to keep people safe on the roads.

“People are aware of the iWatch, they’re aware of Apple products, but there are smartwatches out there,” said Cst. Ian MacDonald with the Abbotsford Police Department. “[A] couple of things we have to acknowledge right off the top, is that we love technology, we love new things and certainly we know this is the latest and greatest in this new thing category.”
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He said the use of a smartwatch while driving would warrant a distracted driving ticket, which is $167 and carries three penalty points.

“More importantly, let’s all acknowledge that technology is a distraction,” said MacDonald. “[The iWatch] has got apps, it’s got a GPS function, it has a microphone. It is supposed to be used because of all those little gizmos and technologies that are built into it, into its compact size.”

“So from my perspective, if people are using that, for any other function than the watch itself, then they’re basically trying to use technology while driving, which we all recognize is not a good choice.”

A video posted to YouTube, showing a woman curling her hair while driving on the Island Highway, generated a lot of discussion about whether she would receive a distracted driving ticket. However, Sannich Police said if she were charged, it would likely be for driving without due care and attention as a curling iron is not an electronic device.

MacDonald says aside from the policing of the use of the newest technology device, people need to make smart choices.

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“I think that the challenge is just greater than the policing and the enforcement,” he says. “I think we, as a community, have to recognize two things. One is that we love technology. The other one is that distracted driving kills and injures people. And so when those two things come together, we have to pick public safety. We have to say at the end of the day, we recognize we love this technology but there’s got to be an appropriate time and place for it.”

“So it does create some enforcement challenges, but those challenges are only created by people who refuse to make the smarter choice, which is to focus on the complex task of driving and ignore the technology while you’re driving.”

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