A judge rejected Victoria Ambrose’s testimony that, despite the multi-function of the electronic device that straps to the wrist, she was only checking the time

Jeff Williams, senior vice president of Operations, discusses the iWatch at the Apple event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A driver looking at an Apple Watch while stopped at a traffic light is still guilty of breaking Ontario’s distracted driving law, despite the trendy device’s new technology and her claim she was only checking the time.

Even with its miniaturization and trendy technology, an Apple Watch is no safer “than a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist,” said a justice of the peace, while convicting a Guelph woman this month of holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device while driving.

Victoria Ambrose was stopped at a red light on South Ring Road in Guelph in April when a University of Guelph police officer, beside her in his cruiser, noticed the glow of an electronic device. The officer testified he saw her looking up and down about four times, court heard.

Picture of a smart watch taken in 2013 at the Mobile World Congress. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

When the light turned green, two cars in front of Ambrose promptly moved forward but she remained stationary until the cop shone a light into her car and she began to drive, court heard.

He pulled her over and gave her a ticket.

Ontario amended its Highway Traffic Act in 2009 to counter distracted driving by prohibiting driving “while holding or using a handheld wireless communication device.”

Ambrose argued this didn’t apply in her case.

Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps rejected Ambrose’s testimony that, despite the multi-function of the electronic device that straps to the wrist and sometimes referred as an iWatch, she was only checking the time, which requires her to tap it once to activate and again to deactivate the display. Phillipps rejected her argument the watch wasn’t connected to an external communication device and 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,” Phillipps said.

In the end, it was not the technology of the watch that doomed Ambrose, but human failing.

“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,” said Phillipps.

Cody Lawson, a Guelph paralegal who represented Ambrose in the Ontario Court of Justice, said Ontario’s laws must keep up with changes in technology.

“It’s new technology and technology keeps moving,” said Lawson.

“There is Google Glass (wearable computer eyeglasses) and much more wearable tech is coming. There is no strict law on using an e-watch or an iWatch. They need to determine if it is the same level of distraction as a cellphone. They really need to be specific on what you can and cannot do.”

Ambrose was fined $400.

Source: National Post