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Canadian Ticketed for Using an Apple Watch While Driving

There appear to be no laws in the U.S. that expressly ban the use of smartwatches while driving, though safety advocates have been warning about the dangers.

Quin Paek for Re/code

A Canadian has the unhappy distinction of apparently being the first motorist to receive a ticket for using a smartwatch while driving.

Jeffrey Macesin was pulled over earlier this week for using his Apple Watch to change a song while driving. The Quebec Provincial Police fined him $120 for violating a section of the law that prohibits drivers from using a hand-held device with a telephone function.

The driver has said he plans to appeal (technically, he wasn’t holding the device in his hand). In the United States, safety advocates have been warning about the risks of using a smartwatch while operating a vehicle.

When the Apple Watch debuted in April, the National Safety Council issued a statement noting that numerous studies have shown that drivers using cellphones increase their risk of being involved in a crash — and warning that smartwatches “could be even riskier.”

The nation’s leading safety advocate singled out one feature in particular: How the Apple Watch vibrates to alert the wearer of an incoming text message or other notification. The natural impulse to glance at the wrist, and away from the road, would be tough to ignore.

For the moment, there appear to be no distracted driving laws that expressly ban smartwatch use by drivers. Such wearable devices are a relative novelty, and laws seldom keep pace with technological innovation.

Still, a growing number of states are cracking down on mobile technologies that draw the driver’s attention away from operating the vehicle. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that 46 states ban text messaging for all drivers, and 14 states prohibit use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

Even with such bans in place, cellphone-related crashes have increased for the third consecutive year and now account for 27 percent of all crashes, according to National Safety Council estimates.

Apple declined comment.

After Google introduced Glass, eight states introduced bills that would restrict the use of the high-tech glasses.

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