Distracted Driving Laws Yet to Catch Up With Apple Watch

While several states and countries have laws in place that make operating a handheld device such as a smartphone or portable media player illegal, the release of the Apple Watch has created a gray area in terms of distracted driving legislation. Given that the Apple Watch is technically not a handheld device, the laws in many jurisdictions are left open to interpretation at this point.

Apple Watch Driving
Regardless of the laws in your local area, it is highly recommended that you keep your eyes on the road and remain focused on driving at all times. Using your Apple Watch while driving is dangerous for both you and the drivers sharing the road with you, no matter how skilled of a driver you may be, and distracted driving in general is still a punishable offense in many jurisdictions.

United States

In the United States, many states have similar distracted driving laws with different conditions that must be followed. All states except Arizona, Missouri and Montana have a text messaging ban that could extend to the Apple Watch, or confirmed plans to enact one within the next six months, and Arizona is the only state without a text messaging ban for novice drivers entirely.

None of the U.S. states have updated their distracted driving laws to specifically address the Apple Watch or other wearable devices¹, and National Safety Council CEO Deborah Hersman confirmed in April that no states currently have plans to do so. Essentially, this means that the Apple Watch may be legal to use or operate while driving, but it is still highly unrecommended.

Additionally, some states have more general laws about which electronic devices are banned while driving. In Oregon, for example, the state law specifically bans drivers from holding or operating "mobile communication devices," which it defines as "a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device," which could be interpreted to include the Apple Watch.


Last month, a Coalition Against Distracted Driving led by Stephen L. Joseph filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles court against Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft, seeking an injunction that would require the companies to fund an "effective and ongoing" national public education campaign in the United States that explain the risks of using smartwatches and smartphones while driving.

To check distracted driving laws on a state-by-state basis, the U.S. government has setup a useful website called Distraction.gov that displays an interactive map outlining primary and secondary laws for text messaging and cell phone use behind the wheel. Currently, 45 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers, which could apply to the Apple Watch.

Canada

In Ontario, it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices², such as smartphones, portable media players, GPS systems and laptops. The province has not currently designated the Apple Watch or other smartwatches as being illegal to use while operating a motor vehicle.

Nevertheless, endangering others because of any distraction in Ontario can result in being charged with careless driving, which carries penalties of six demerit points, fines up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of six months and up to a two-year license suspension. Ontario Provincial Police officers are free to interpret the Ontario Highway Traffic Act as they wish as it relates to distracted driving.

Québec's Highway Safety Code outlaws holding or operating handheld electronic devices with a telephone function while driving, but does not make any references to the Apple Watch or other wearable devices. The Canadian Press reported in September 2014 that Québec was reviewing its distracted driving law³, but the province has yet to make any changes to date.

British Columbia has a similar ban on holding or operating handheld electronic devices while driving, but has not specifically outlawed using the Apple Watch behind the wheel. The province's Motor Vehicle Act further stipulates that drivers must not send or receive text messages or emails on any type of electronic device, and new and learning drivers are prohibited from using any electronic devices while driving.

Ultimately, this information should be followed for reference only and does not serve as legal advice. We encourage drivers in various countries to check their local laws for the most accurate and up-to-date information. More importantly, remember that you are sharing the road with others and drive safely.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
70 months ago
Saw this coming a mile away. The driver didn't, though.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
Soon there will be a bill that will ban all electronic use while driving. But we still can eat, drink (a beverage) and put on make up while driving.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
How many are reading this while driving?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
Not a new problem

Come on, people! This isn't a new problem. Smart watches have been available for quite a few years now and Apple is only the latest version (and not necessarily the best). Driver distraction is driver distraction, regardless of the origin of the distraction. We don't need a specific law about every possible distraction. What about people who drive with a baby in a carrier in the back seat? Do we have a specific law about that distraction? What about male drivers with their wife or girlfriend wearing a short skirt in the passenger seat? Do we have a law about *that* distraction?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
Kinda crazy that I'm wearing almost the exact same thing at work today.

Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago

driving and texting is the easiest thing....theres a bunch of stupid people that cant multi task jacking people up.


I would bet you aren't as good at it as you think you are.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple's iPhone 12 Event Could Happen on October 13 Based on Rumors From Mobile Operators

Wednesday September 23, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone-centric event could perhaps be held on Tuesday, October 13, according to information shared with MacRumors by an employee at a UK cellular carrier. There's no way for us to confirm the dates at this point in time nor are we sure on the credibility of the source, but even without a rumor, Tuesday, October 13 is a good guess based on Apple's historic launch timelines, ...

New Images Leak of iPhone 12 Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable

Thursday September 24, 2020 2:37 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design. Images of the purported cables were leaked in July, and today leaker Mr White has shared new images that give us a closer look at what we might get included in the iPhone 12 box. The photos show a USB-C to Lightning cable with a clearly braided design rather...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Apple Emphasizes That Solo Loop May Increase in Length Over Time, Updates Sizing Guide With More Specific Instructions

Wednesday September 23, 2020 8:26 am PDT by
Apple on Tuesday updated one of its support documents to emphasize that the new silicone rubber Solo Loop for the Apple Watch may increase in length over time, as mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the Solo Loop product page. Apple has also updated its printable Solo Loop sizing guide with more specific instructions, as noted by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber. The guide now advises users to ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....