The eyes have it

In a number of provinces it’s illegal to use a cellphone while driving a vehicle, unless it’s through a hands-free connection like a Bluetooth device.

But what about smart watches? They look like ordinary time-keepers, but they also have direct or indirect Internet connectivity that wearers can access with one hand, just like a handset.

What’s the difference between checking email on a watch, and checking it on a smart phone?

The answer, at least in Ontario, is authorities don’t know.

Ontario’s Transportation department told CBC News that it’s up to local police departments whether to charge individuals.

It’s pretty obvious it’s unsafe when a driver has a phone to his ear, or is thumbing across the screen — that’s why these are called distracted driving laws. But looking at a watch is a pretty natural thing. Unless of course you’re driving with the watch hand on the wheel and the other furiously tapping on the screen or buttons for five minutes straight.

In Ontario the law forbids driving while hand holding a device. Arguably, you don’t hand hold a watch: In normal practice, both hands of a driver are free be on the wheel. It may well be that a law crafted only a short time ago but when digital watches didn’t exist has a loophole. Such is the pace of technology.

Question: Do you want to test the law?

When it comes to court — and it will — the issue won’t be where the driver’s hands were. It will be whether the eyes were on the device for sustained periods of time.

But as an Ontario Provincial Police officer told the CBC, while there’s nothing illegal about glancing at your watch, “if you’re consumed by the functions” of the device that could be different.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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