Ontario Judge Finds Woman Guilty of Distracted Driving for Looking at Apple Watch

A Canadian woman has been found guilty of distracted driving for looking at her Apple Watch, despite claims that she was just checking the time while waiting for a red light to change (via The National Post).

A judge in the Ontario Court of Justice ordered University of Guelph student Victoria Ambrose to pay a $400 fine, after determining that she had spent too much time staring at her smartwatch while being in control of a vehicle.


According to court documents, the woman was ticketed after a police officer noticed the glow from an electronic gadget coming from the woman's car, which was stationary beside his cruiser at a red light.

The officer reported that he saw the woman look up and down at the device four times in 20 seconds, and then fail to move forward when the light turned green. The officer then shone a light into her car and she began to drive. When he pulled her over, he realized that she had been looking at an Apple Watch.

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 devices, such as smartphones, portable media players, GPS systems and laptops.

Previously, the province had not designated the Apple Watch or other smartwatches as being illegal to use while operating a motor vehicle. However, in judging Ambrose's case, Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps rejected her argument that the Apple Watch being on her wrist satisfies an exemption for devices securely mounted inside the vehicle.
"Checking one's timepiece is normally done in a moment, even if it had to be touched to be activated," said Phillipps.

"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. While attached to the defendant's wrist, it is no less a source of distraction than a cellphone taped to someone's wrist.

“The key to determining this matter is distraction. It is abundantly clear from the evidence that Ms. Ambrose was distracted when the officer made his observations."
Safety tests carried out in the U.K. in 2015 concluded that using a smartwatch while driving is more dangerous than using a smartphone.

According to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), a driver reading a message on an Apple Watch would take 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency maneuver, whereas a driver talking to another passenger reacts in 0.9 seconds.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)


Top Rated Comments

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11 weeks ago

Could she have just been checking the time?

Right there in the first paragraph.
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A Canadian cop looking to make his ticket quota and trying to impress his bosses how sad cops have nothing better to do.
look out next tickets for breathing too long.

Distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Driving while eletronically distracted is the same as having four drinks and getting behind the wheel. Distracted driving is increasing while drunk driving is decreasing, and anti-distraction laws are already hard enough to enforce. Cops should ticket it whenever they see it. I’m sure you’d say the same if a member of your family was run over by a texting driver. Rather than attack the officer who did his job, I’ll say that the problem is that distracted driving laws aren’t enforced enough.
Rating: 49 Votes
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11 weeks ago
There’s no need to use a smart watch or phone while driving.

The time is on your dashboard. Your phone calls and messages can wait for the length of the journey. Notifications won’t suddenly disappear.

I think it’s selfish that drivers are willing to put others at risk just to keep ‘check’ on their social lives, when for many of these messages/apps, the only way to respond appropriately is to use a phone in the first place.
Rating: 38 Votes
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11 weeks ago
I HATE being behind people like this at stoplights as they sit there 5 seconds after it turns green. You can see them looking down. At my city light in the morning there's a very long line of traffic and many people that could have gone through get stuck for another cycle.
Rating: 30 Votes
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11 weeks ago
There was no mention of her interacting with the watch so this is BS. If you aren’t allowed to glance at illuminated screens in a car then we have to ban GPS displays, infotainment systems, HUDs, digital dashboards - pretty much anything with pixels.

Sometimes it’s necessary to check these things and doing it at a red light seems pretty reasonable. So you’re a little late to move at green, big deal. If someone tries to overtake you in that situation and crashes, that’s their fault. Don’t want to be late? Leave god damn earlier. I’ve seen people staring at their GPS screen for ages while doing 50mph. That *is* dangerous.
Rating: 17 Votes
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11 weeks ago
A Canadian cop looking to make his ticket quota and trying to impress his bosses how sad cops have nothing better to do.
look out next tickets for breathing too long.
Rating: 16 Votes
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11 weeks ago
$400 is not enough. Make it $4000 and maybe people will get a clue. And yes, it makes sense to me that a smart watch is potentially more distracting considering how small the screen is for Reading. The key point is that she was distracted and didn’t react to the light.
Rating: 16 Votes
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11 weeks ago
Distracted driving is a huge issue. Even using handsfree BT connectivity to make phone calls is a distraction. I have seen people shaving, putting on make-up, eating, talking on the phone raised to their ear, all while swerving in and out of traffic at 80 mph (128.75 kph). It's just as dangerous as DWI/DUI. Those who cannot exercise self control to focus on driving should have their license suspended and be fined appropriately.
Rating: 15 Votes
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11 weeks ago
The purpose of being behind that wheel is to drive. Not to check your messages, or even the time (which is obviously easy to do with most all vehicles just by glancing forward at the dashboard), but to drive. The safety of yourself, the passengers in your car whose lives you hold in your hands, and the other people who share the road with you depends on your awareness, your judgement, your skill and ability to handle your vehicle properly and to make decisions in case of unusual circumstances.

If you want to make excuses as to why you should be allowed to use your communication and information devices at all while you are behind the wheel and especially while the vehicle is in motion, you do not belong behind the wheel. I have made a few mistakes in my lifetime when looking down at a map or at my iPad while driving, and I could have lived to regret it if the circumstances were less favorable. I regret those situations now, and I have learned from them. I just hope that other people do not have to pay for similar mistakes with their lives.
Rating: 13 Votes
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11 weeks ago

What if they’re lost.

If you're lost, pull over and sort it out. Don't just sit in front of a green traffic light and start twiddling knobs.
Rating: 12 Votes
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11 weeks ago
It is a shame to read many comments in here that people are against the police officer for taking the action that he did because in doing so they are basically saying what the driver was doing was OK.

It's not OK, being distracted in a car while driving or temporary motionless in traffic can kill. There have been far too many safety studies done to prove that being distracted in a car can kill because you do not have enough time to react to an emergency.
Rating: 11 Votes
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