When assessing Distracted Driving laws that exist in some form throughout 47 states and Washington DC, most laws indicate a ban on "hand-held devices" specifically. However, as a recent article put out by Macrumors.com points out, the Apple Watch has created a semantic loophole in that technically speaking, it is not handheld. Does this make it less of a distraction while driving? According to state statistics, not likely, but technological advancements continue to outpace legislation in most instances, nonetheless.
Colorado laws arguably take a broad approach to this issue. Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-239 “Misuse of a wireless telephone – definitions – penalty – preemption” states in relevant part:
- “Wireless telephone” means a telephone that operates without a physical, wireline connection to the provider’s equipment. The term includes, without limitation, cellular and mobile telephones;
- A person under eighteen years of age shall not use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle;
- A person eighteen years of age or older shall not use a wireless telephone for the purpose of engaging in text messaging or other similar forms of manual data entry or transmission while operating a motor vehicle.
Colorado’s definition of a wireless telephone could feasibly include smart-watches that connect through your mobile phone to your service provider. Accordingly, texting or other forms of “manual data entry” undertaken through such smart-watches while driving may be prohibited by these laws.
Earlier studies suggest that Distracted Driving Laws can have an effect on motorist behavior, which should encourage lawmakers to consider moving quickly on incorporating language to cover any and all devices or activity that can prove dangerous when driving. For example, a 2003 report published by PubMed indicated that in New York State, prolific advertising of the ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving led to a decreased usage rate from 2.3% to 1.1% after the laws were enacted. However, more recent laws do not seem robust enough to significantly affect driver behavior. Furthermore, technology has changed dramatically since this study's publication and now devices like the Apple Watch and Google Glass make 2003 bans nearly obsolete like the technology they were written for. As Adam Gershowitz, Legal Researcher, puts it in an interview with Handsfreeinfo.com this past November, "Because technology is evolving so quickly, it is difficult to draft a statute that imposes a comprehensive and enforceable ban on wireless electronic devices while driving." With such an apparent gray area in the legislative arena surrounding this issue, it is imperative that common sense take over for the common good. Drivers of all ages should keep themselves free from anything that can prove to be a distraction while operating a vehicle. While laws can be an effective deterrent for reckless driving behavior, don't let that be your only guide. The laws may not catch up to the danger fast enough so be careful and focused out there.
As always, the publication of this post does not create an attorney-client relationship. Nor can the posting be considered “advice” as every situation needs to be evaluated according to its own facts. These posts are intended as informational only and you should always contact an attorney licensed in your state for information about your specific situation.