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Should we ban smart watches while driving?

Alexandra Craig 19 April 2016 41

woman driving wearing smart watch

Using a mobile phone while driving has been an offence for quite some time now. But what about sending an SMS from an object that isn’t a phone?

My partner bought an Apple Watch on the weekend. Besides the fact that I think this product is a pointless piece of junk and a huge waste of money, it got me thinking about the ramifications of certain ways this type of technology is used.

We were driving along and when we stopped at a set of traffic lights, my partner looked down and read an SMS on his watch. Obviously it’s against the law to look at your phone when you’re at a set of lights, but things aren’t as clear if you’re using an Apple Watch.

Police say Apple Watches are treated the same as mobile phones, and that if you’re caught using one while driving you will be fined. On the other hand, lawyers say it’s a grey area. They say a watch can only be defined as a mobile phone if it can independently make calls and send/receive text messages.

Either way, this throws up all sorts of questions. If you glance over at someone in another vehicle who’s looking at their watch, it’s difficult to know for sure whether they’re reading an SMS or email. But they’re equally as distracted.

(Yes, I did tell my partner to stop looking at his watch and gave him a five minute lecture on why it’s the same as being on his phone.)

You can’t compose messages or emails on Apple watches unless you use voice recognition which may prevent people from looking at their phones. But what’s to stop a driver pulling their phone out of their pocket or handbag when they notice an SMS come through on their watch?

I’m stumped as to how preventing people from reading messages and emails from their watches can be enforced.

Aside from implementing a law that says you can’t touch your watch at all while you’re driving, I think it’ll be a tough one to police. How about you?


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41 Responses to Should we ban smart watches while driving?
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P4rit4 P4rit4 1:22 pm 04 Oct 15

I think anything that distracts you while driving should be banned. Not sure about smartwatches but mobile phones will definitely need to be taken care of.

creative_canberran creative_canberran 1:24 am 10 Sep 15

Mysteryman said :

creative_canberran said :

Mysteryman said :

“Obviously it’s against the law to look at your phone when you’re at a set of lights”

That’s not correct. It’s against the law to operate a mobile phone. There is no law against looking at one, just as there is no law against looking at the radio, your passenger, your analogue wristwatch, or your smart watch. And nor should there be laws against looking that them.

Actually the law on this is explicit, IT IS ILLEGAL to view your phone while operating a motor vehicle. You are allowed to use it only for voice telephony, and only when it is secured in a holder.

The phone cannot be outside of a holder or outside of a pocket, whether in use or not.

It can be controlled only by voice or via a hands free functionality (the button on your wheel).

There is also an exception in the law the allows you to pass the device to a passenger.

You’re wrong. It is NOT illegal to “view” your phone. It is illegal to *use* a phone. There’s a difference and it’s outlined in the legislation.

Try reading the definition of “use” next time and also, the correct way to interpret legislation.

use, in relation to a mobile phone, includes any of the following actions by a driver:

(a) holding the body of the phone in her or his hand (whether or not engaged in a phone call), except while in the process of giving the body of the phone to a passenger in the vehicle;

(b) entering or placing, other than by the use of voice, anything into the phone, or sending or looking at anything that is in the phone;

(c) turning the phone on or off;

(d) operating any other function of the phone.

Mysteryman Mysteryman 10:35 am 09 Sep 15

creative_canberran said :

Mysteryman said :

“Obviously it’s against the law to look at your phone when you’re at a set of lights”

That’s not correct. It’s against the law to operate a mobile phone. There is no law against looking at one, just as there is no law against looking at the radio, your passenger, your analogue wristwatch, or your smart watch. And nor should there be laws against looking that them.

Actually the law on this is explicit, IT IS ILLEGAL to view your phone while operating a motor vehicle. You are allowed to use it only for voice telephony, and only when it is secured in a holder.

The phone cannot be outside of a holder or outside of a pocket, whether in use or not.

It can be controlled only by voice or via a hands free functionality (the button on your wheel).

There is also an exception in the law the allows you to pass the device to a passenger.

I should also add that your assertion that the phone cannot be outside of a pocket or a holder, is also not true:

(1) The driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless:

(a) the phone is being used to make or receive a phone call (other than a text message, video message, email or similar communication) and the body of the phone:

(i) is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used; or

(ii) is not secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle and is not being held by the driver, and the use of the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone; or

Mysteryman Mysteryman 10:31 am 09 Sep 15

creative_canberran said :

Mysteryman said :

“Obviously it’s against the law to look at your phone when you’re at a set of lights”

That’s not correct. It’s against the law to operate a mobile phone. There is no law against looking at one, just as there is no law against looking at the radio, your passenger, your analogue wristwatch, or your smart watch. And nor should there be laws against looking that them.

Actually the law on this is explicit, IT IS ILLEGAL to view your phone while operating a motor vehicle. You are allowed to use it only for voice telephony, and only when it is secured in a holder.

The phone cannot be outside of a holder or outside of a pocket, whether in use or not.

It can be controlled only by voice or via a hands free functionality (the button on your wheel).

There is also an exception in the law the allows you to pass the device to a passenger.

You’re wrong. It is NOT illegal to “view” your phone. It is illegal to *use* a phone. There’s a difference and it’s outlined in the legislation. The law allows the use of a phone only if the device is mounted or in a position that allows the driver to make or receive a phone call without touching the device. If the device is mounted according to the law, there is nothing that prohibits the driver from looking at the phone (looking doesn’t mean touching) – which is why it can be used as a GPS.

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 6:38 am 09 Sep 15

milkman said :

Grail said :

There is already an offense for distracted driving.

I think the word you are looking for is “operate” rather than “look at”. As in, it is illegal to operate anything that is not the car while driving. Operate is intentionally different to “use” or “look at” since the implication is that you are interacting with something and thus diverting your attention from the car you are operating.

Where does the good old CB radio fit in to all this?

You don’t have to look at the CB microphone, you simply grab it and squeeze, just like the knob of the gear stick or the handle of the window winder. It won’t take your eyes off the road like the small text on a phone screen. This does contradict my views mentioned previously about things done by drivers that distract them, so I guess it all really comes down to a person’s own ability to multitask.
I guess in the end it is how much time you spend not looking at the road that determines the risk of having an accident whilst being distracted. Mobiles, watches and other things that have small writing which needs the driver to refocus their eyes in order to read are probably the biggest risks, whilst doing things that don’t require you to look away from the road ahead are pretty safe as we do a lot of those simply to operate standard vehicle controls such as changing gears, operating the indicators, demister, cruise control, heater or air conditioner, windows, mirrors, headlights, fog lights, driving lights, stereo, GPS, traction control, interior lamp and wipers. Wow, there certainly are a lot of distractions in a car without bringing your own with you.

creative_canberran creative_canberran 11:44 pm 08 Sep 15

milkman said :

Grail said :

There is already an offense for distracted driving.

I think the word you are looking for is “operate” rather than “look at”. As in, it is illegal to operate anything that is not the car while driving. Operate is intentionally different to “use” or “look at” since the implication is that you are interacting with something and thus diverting your attention from the car you are operating.

Where does the good old CB radio fit in to all this?

Current law Australia wide provides a specific exemption for CB radios.

creative_canberran creative_canberran 11:43 pm 08 Sep 15

Mysteryman said :

“Obviously it’s against the law to look at your phone when you’re at a set of lights”

That’s not correct. It’s against the law to operate a mobile phone. There is no law against looking at one, just as there is no law against looking at the radio, your passenger, your analogue wristwatch, or your smart watch. And nor should there be laws against looking that them.

Actually the law on this is explicit, IT IS ILLEGAL to view your phone while operating a motor vehicle. You are allowed to use it only for voice telephony, and only when it is secured in a holder.

The phone cannot be outside of a holder or outside of a pocket, whether in use or not.

It can be controlled only by voice or via a hands free functionality (the button on your wheel).

There is also an exception in the law the allows you to pass the device to a passenger.

milkman milkman 6:23 pm 08 Sep 15

Grail said :

There is already an offense for distracted driving.

I think the word you are looking for is “operate” rather than “look at”. As in, it is illegal to operate anything that is not the car while driving. Operate is intentionally different to “use” or “look at” since the implication is that you are interacting with something and thus diverting your attention from the car you are operating.

Where does the good old CB radio fit in to all this?

Evilomlap Evilomlap 12:28 pm 08 Sep 15

wildturkeycanoe said :

Felix the Cat said :

A vehicle is for driving, if you want to talk on the phone or text or surf the web then pull over and turn the car off or get someone else to drive and do it from the passenger seat.

I fully agree. I leave my phone in my pocket and if it rings while I drive, I just don’t answer because it is so hard to get out of the pocket while I am sitting. I have a message bank. If you need me, leave a message, it’s that simple. Apparently a lot of people just seem to think a ringing mobile phone means you have to answer or the sky will fall down. How did we ever get by without them last century?

+1 from me too. I have these kinds of thoughts all the time. A quote from Fight Club actually comes to mind I’d say it’s especially relevant to today’s age of the smart phone: “the things you own, end up owning you.”

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 12:08 pm 08 Sep 15

Felix the Cat said :

A vehicle is for driving, if you want to talk on the phone or text or surf the web then pull over and turn the car off or get someone else to drive and do it from the passenger seat.

I fully agree. I leave my phone in my pocket and if it rings while I drive, I just don’t answer because it is so hard to get out of the pocket while I am sitting. I have a message bank. If you need me, leave a message, it’s that simple. Apparently a lot of people just seem to think a ringing mobile phone means you have to answer or the sky will fall down. How did we ever get by without them last century?

bearlikesbeer bearlikesbeer 12:19 pm 07 Sep 15

tim_c said :

Bit of a joke really – I’ve yet to see much evidence that the ACT Police are even enforcing the current laws about mobile phone use.

Here are some stats on policing of mobile phone use.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-pplaters-push-boundaries-with-speeding-mobile-phone-use-most-common-offences-20150805-gis90z

tim_c tim_c 9:42 am 07 Sep 15

Bit of a joke really – I’ve yet to see much evidence that the ACT Police are even enforcing the current laws about mobile phone use.

Felix the Cat Felix the Cat 5:34 pm 06 Sep 15

Holden Caulfield said :

Yes, conversing with the can itself, that would be rather odd. 🙂

Unless your name is David Hasselhoff…

Felix the Cat Felix the Cat 5:32 pm 06 Sep 15

wildturkeycanoe said :

I don’t care how many people read their txt messages, watches, read the paper or have a 3 course meal whilst driving. Most people can manage to drive better than some of the worst drivers I’ve out on the roads who haven’t been distracted by anything at all yet cannot even keep their car in their own lane, indicate correctly, give way or drive at a consistent speed within +\- 10km/h of the recommended limit.
How about police do something about these obvious infractions before concentrating on whether a driver looks down for a second at what could be the clock on their dash or a loose thread on their blouse?

So what about the people that read their txt messages, watches, read the paper or have a 3 course meal AND use their mobile phone? And how do you distinguish between the drivers that have the skill to do this vs the others, other than seeing if they wander all over the road?

Mobile phones/tablets/smart watches/other devices should be banned. in cars, even handsfree varieties. Studies have shown that there is little difference in lack of concentration between using a handsfree phone vs a handheld one. A vehicle is for driving, if you want to talk on the phone or text or surf the web then pull over and turn the car off or get someone else to drive and do it from the passenger seat.

watto23 watto23 9:26 pm 05 Sep 15

darkmilk said :

However, now getting into rant mode, the problem with driver behaviour currently is not one of a lack of offences and penalties, it’s one of enforcement – there is plenty of evidence that people’s behaviour only changes proportionally to the chance of getting caught not the magnitude of possible consequences. The burden of proof for the police officers is overwhelming for ‘minor’ offences so they just don’t bother most of the time; in my experience the AFP don’t even care for video of extremely dangerous incidents including minor accidents unless someone is injured – even in that case they have to be pushed into doing the paperwork to issue a small fine and then they’re done with it.

Thats my gripe with speed cameras. They don’t catch bad driving, people who don’t know how to merge at the speed the traffic is flowing, tailgating, don’t know rules of roundabout use or how to indicate just to name a few. We need more police and more driver education. Even a simple simple 10 minute exam on road rules every 5-10 years. If you get any wrong, you need to then go to a driver education session of say an hour or 2 hours in length before getting your full license renewed. I’m amazed at how many people don’t actually know the rules and in many cases they’ve changed several times since they got their license.

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 7:23 am 05 Sep 15

Holden Caulfield said :

Indeed, checking your mirrors and blind spots should be banned too!

I agree. I wonder how many accidents in slip lanes occur when a driver looks over their shoulder to check for traffic and resumes looking ahead to run up the back of the driver ahead because they have slammed their brakes on? This applies to shoulder checks when lane changing, it has happened to me often [not the crashing part, but pretty close]. The time it takes to properly look over your shoulder to assess the other lane and then look back ahead is probably longer than the recommended 2 or 4 second gap you are required to leave in front, especially if the retractable seat belt grabs your shoulder whilst attempting to do so.

I also believe that talking to a passenger should also be banned. How often I’ve seen drivers turning back to look at the kids in the back seat, or waving their arms about the vehicle while they speak with their hands to their passenger, slowing down to well below the speed limit and wandering all over their own and the adjacent lanes is astounding. Old people are the usual culprits, no opinionated specific bais against them but based purely from my observations.

Also, why do they make the stereo volume button also the menu access button? If you hit a pothole while turning up the tunes, you end up with a random default radio station transmitting Morse code and go through numerous equalizer settings before messing up the balance and fader. The menu exit button is usually some random little square that can only be identified by carefully reading the instruction manual, if the previous owner has left it in the glove box.

I don’t care how many people read their txt messages, watches, read the paper or have a 3 course meal whilst driving. Most people can manage to drive better than some of the worst drivers I’ve out on the roads who haven’t been distracted by anything at all yet cannot even keep their car in their own lane, indicate correctly, give way or drive at a consistent speed within +\- 10km/h of the recommended limit.
How about police do something about these obvious infractions before concentrating on whether a driver looks down for a second at what could be the clock on their dash or a loose thread on their blouse?

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 11:03 am 04 Sep 15

dungfungus said :

“Why is handling a mobile phone while my car is stationary a distraction, yet opening a drink while I’m driving isn’t?”
Perhaps because you don’t converse with the can?
I mean, if you did, you shouldn’t have a driver’s licence.

Oh conversation is the distraction now?! God forbid you speak to your passengers. Or give a taxi driver directions. Or abuse Alan Jones. Then again, if you have him on your radio you have bigger issues to worry about.

Yes, conversing with the can itself, that would be rather odd. 🙂

dungfungus dungfungus 10:49 am 04 Sep 15

Holden Caulfield said :

creative_canberran said :

Holden Caulfield said :

If we think looking at a watch should be illegal then we must take this approach to its logical conclusion.

It should be against the law to look at your speedo, check the radio dial, read your sat nav or any other activity that takes your eye off the road straight ahead. Indeed, checking your mirrors and blind spots should be banned too!

You realise a smart watch is more than a watch. If it were just glancing at the time function, there wouldn’t be a problem. news headlines and texts on a tiny screen, that is a problem.

And car makers are putting HUDs in now to further remove the need to look at speedos on the dash.

Well, I was being a bit tongue in cheek, but, yes, I understand am aware of all those points you make. It still doesn’t alter the absurdity that at a set of traffic lights I can’t pick up my phone because it’s against the law, but the law doesn’t prevent me from opening a can of soft drink, while I’m driving, and having a swig.

Why is handling a mobile phone while my car is stationary a distraction, yet opening a drink while I’m driving isn’t?

I have no problems with wanting to prevent mobile phone use/texting etc while driving. I get that it is distracting, it’s just unfortunate that the laws supporting that aim are a bit of an ass.

As an aside, this clip does a pretty good job of highlighting some the bad habits many of us exhibit at times behind the wheel…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opoGqpDfPAY

“Why is handling a mobile phone while my car is stationary a distraction, yet opening a drink while I’m driving isn’t?”
Perhaps because you don’t converse with the can?
I mean, if you did, you shouldn’t have a driver’s licence.

Evilomlap Evilomlap 9:58 am 04 Sep 15

Holden Caulfield said :

Well, I was being a bit tongue in cheek, but, yes, I understand am aware of all those points you make. It still doesn’t alter the absurdity that at a set of traffic lights I can’t pick up my phone because it’s against the law, but the law doesn’t prevent me from opening a can of soft drink, while I’m driving, and having a swig.

Why is handling a mobile phone while my car is stationary a distraction, yet opening a drink while I’m driving isn’t?

I have no problems with wanting to prevent mobile phone use/texting etc while driving. I get that it is distracting, it’s just unfortunate that the laws supporting that aim are a bit of an ass.

Irony is unfortunately lost on a lot of users of this website, Mr Caulfield. Believe me, I’ve looked.

And studies have actually shown (one I read years ago when we printed these things on paper, by UCLA I believe) that drinking a beverage while driving does actually constitute a ‘distraction’. But then again the same study advocated that we should all wear full-face motorcycle helmets while driving too, (including passengers) so it was a little bit…um, out there.

Evilomlap Evilomlap 9:47 am 04 Sep 15

Yesterday afternoon I saw a lady turning onto Northbourne Avenue. She was cradling a phone between her ear and her shoulder and holding a coffee cup, using her one free hand to turn the wheel. Obviously not a Rioter!

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