Quebec police call Apple Watch 'hand-held phone', ticket man for changing music while driving

You can't even pull over and use one. You have to be parked in a legitimate space. The problem here, though, is that the Apple watch isn't a handheld phone. Technology is once again misaligned with the law. CTV News:

The self-described gadget lover said he thought he was permitted to watch his new Apple Watch while driving, so long as he wasn't tapping away on his smartphone."I have it in the bag charging while the auxiliary cable is plugged into the radio and this controls my phone to play the music. So I was changing songs with my hand on the steering wheel," said Macesin, who was leaving Pincourt heading to Highway 20."Going towards Vaudreuil, there was a cop car behind me and he didn't have his lights on yet, but then he turned them on and I thought maybe he just wanted me to get out of the way. I was just confused," he said.Macesin was pulled over and slapped with the ticket under Section 439.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code that reads:"No person may, while driving a road vehicle, use a hand-held device that includes a telephone function." Macesin argues that technically he wasn't using or holding a phone.

I'm obviously not a lawyer, but here's my long-standing problem with Quebec and some other jurisdictions — we make traffic laws covering objects rather than behavior.

An Apple Watch is a peripheral, in some ways no different than a Bluetooth speakerphone. What's more, it has functions like navigation that have nothing to do with telephony. Moreover, when I used to commute to work and back every day, I routinely saw people eating, reading, putting on make up and doing hair, and otherwise engaging in all sorts of reckless behavior behind the wheel.

Imagine if we handled assault this way. "You can't hit someone with a baseball bat." "I hit them with a rolling pin." "Oh, well... um..." We, rightly, say, "You can't hit someone!"

A distracted driving law, one that covers the behavior rather than the object, would make more sense to me. That way, if someone has a newspaper open on the steering wheel, the police could ticket them. If someone else is simply saying "Hey Siri, play Arcade Fire" the police could leave them be.

The driver in this case is contesting the ticket. I don't blame him. Not because I support distracted driving, but because I support making distracted driving the prohibition. If someone is using an Apple Watch in a way that distracts them, ticket some sense into them. If they're using an Apple Watch in a way that's the same as perfectly legal hands-free calling, navigation, or infotainment centers, then don't.

What do you think?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.