Aussie police say Apple Watch is a mobile phone, should not be used by drivers

“Police say the smartwatch, which goes on sale in Australia on Friday, will be treated as a mobile phone and should not be used by drivers in a vehicle that is moving or stationary,” Steve Rice reports for The Advertiser. “But a prominent solicitor has argued the watch is a Bluetooth accessory and storage device — and therefore legal for drivers to use — because it cannot be independently used for phone calls, text messages and emails.”

MacDailyNews Take: Duh.

“Traffic Support Branch acting officer-in-charge Inspector Steve Kameniar said the Apple Watch was still considered a mobile phone under rule 300 of the Australian Road Rules,” Rice reports. “The rule states that a motorist can use a mobile phone while driving via Bluetooth, a headset or earphones without touching, holding or resting the phone on their body. It further states that it is an offence to create, send or look at a text, video message or email on a mobile phone. Insp Kameniar said the watch, therefore, should not be used in a vehicle that is moving or stationary.”

“Lawyer Michael Woods said he believed, at present, the Apple Watch was a Bluetooth accessory that also functioned as a storage device,” Rice reports. “He said it was not illegal to use Bluetooth technology, including an earpiece, while driving. ‘You have a Bluetooth earpiece and the fact that you can press that button to make it work and answer your calls is no different to answering calls if I have Bluetooth linked to my car and I hit a button on my car to answer my calls,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, the world of static rules struggles to keep pace with Apple’s paradigm-destroying ways.

Apple Watch is not a mobile phone. It is a Bluetooth accessory to iPhone 5 or greater. It’s exactly the same as having a Bluetooth earpiece (that’s capable of more volume and with a better microphone) on your wrist.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “skylark” for the heads up.]


    1. Agreed! When I am driving a vehicle without an integrated phone system and an important call is needed, I do pull over to the side of the road at a convenient place and call.

      Stationary not allowed? What do they want the driver to do? Get out of the car? The wording “stationary” is a stupid reaction against Apple per se!

      This does bring up the use of integrated blue tooth phone systems. Not sure what the correct term is, but I do use that in my personal car. IS that against the law down under?

      1. There is apparently a difference between “stationary” and “parked” in the legal language of the traffic laws in Oz. Stationary presumably means that the vehicle is not moving, but the engine is running (as troy mentioned below, at a red light/stop sign or stuck in traffic). To use your phone/watch, you’d have to pull over, stop the car and turn off the engine, so that there is no chance you could accidentally put the car in motion while using the phone.

        1. Excellent point Predrag but you also miss the point that Anustralia has it’s own rules of physics that involve things like being no difference between applying the back brake of bicycle compared to the front brake, a fact I distinctly remember a sales manager who had called out all his staff so that they could come out and laugh at me and call me bloody yank and told me to get out of the store while I smiled and waved over a thousand of their dollars in the air.

          There are some other interesting laws, like the shortest distance between two points will have a detour, and no doubt stationary cars can be involved in accidents if the motor is running. Even stationary cars with the engine running can present a problem with anustralian pedestrians running into them. Unfortunately this sort of accident is very rarely life threatening.

          The local holden car is particularly sensitive to these unique laws of physics as illustrated by the image at the end of my post, and yet it is an actual road sign. Fortunately the holden vehicle is slated for total extinction soon, 2017 I think. If the anustralian culture followed suit, well the world would be a much better place to live on.

          1. Oh dear! Poor dewicate widdle Wode Warrior met some absolute jerks in Oz. Good thing they don’t exist in any other country, isn’t it? (Rolls eyes)

            And it’s a good thing that you’re intelligent enough to realise that in a country of over 23 millions people everyone’s exactly the same.

            1. He probably ran into some brogans that were fuckign with him. WHo gets into an argument about front vs back brake.s Front brake is important. Rear not so much. WGAF?

              But I will say this- As a society Aussies are big time rule sticklers. And they have rules for everything. I always pictured a grumpy old man and crabby old lady making the rules.

            2. They couldn’t possibly be as grumpy or crabby as Road Warrior!

              (Or should that be “as wumpy or cwabby as Wode Warrior”?)

              I’m glad he never got the bike anyway. Think of the havoc he would’ve caused by riding on the wrong side of the road! =:-O

            3. I would have thought the back brakes were more important than front since when you brake you pitch forward and the pivot point is the wheel that is ‘stopped’.. e.g. Front brakes would stop you but increase the chances of you and the back of the bike flipping forward.

            4. Bikes are just like cars, where because of the weight shifting forward during deceleration, the front brakes do most of the work. Just compare the size of the brakes discs and cooling ventilation between front and rear brakes on nearly any vehicle to get an idea of the extra loads the front brakes deal with.

            5. Strange, I had thought that for cars you had the more heavy duty brakes on the ‘powered’ wheels. So since most cars are front wheel powered, the front discs on most cars are ‘heavier’. If we follow the same principle for bikes as vehicles then there is even more reason for the rear wheels to have the more ‘important’ brakes.. I’m not sure how it is for 4WD vehicles, does anyone know if there is a difference in those vehicles between the front and rear brakes?

            6. No Xenex, it has nothing to do with which wheels are driving. Front, rear or all wheel drive, two, three or four wheels, the physics is the same. Under deceleration the weight shifts forward and it is the front brake or brakes which do the majority of the work. Sure the rears help, but they don’t do as much of the work as the fronts.

              I ride a road and mountain bike a lot and while there is a small danger of going over the ‘bars one quickly learns to modulate front braking and balance it with rear wheel braking to get maximum stopping without much drama.

          2. Oh how Road Wanker loves to find a story, any story, involving Australians to show the world what a sensitive little lad he is. Poor boy. But I bet mommy made it better eh, RW?

    2. I guess that it is because you can not use in a red light, or traffic jam. I mean, you can only i\use it in the car if the car is in a parking zone and not while waiting in the driveway.
      I’m guessing here, those from the land of down under are weird because so much uranium.

      I agree not to use the phone or watch while driving, when you are driving, you are moving a half of ton to 2 tons weapons that can do a lot of damage, you should not be doing anything else but driving in that moment.

      1. Also be sure to park your vehicle, turn off the engine, remove the key, exit the vehicle, lock it, and move at least 2m away from the vehicle before calling 911 (or whatever you call in Australia for emergency service) to report the car in front of you nursing into flames due to too many Bluetooth devices being recharged in it.

    3. Aussies commonly thought they could use a mobile phone while at a traffic light because the vehicle was not moving. They also would stop at the side of the road where it was not safe and impede traffic.

    4. Come on fanboys. Guys… Seriously. This isn’t a game. U don’t want to die or have a loved one die in a car crash because someone was too busy looking and interacting with their SMARTWATCH. This isn’t just Apple. The Watch is NOTHING like a bluetooth earpiece. It’s a multitouch device with a screen u interact with. With Apps, the ability to MAKE and RECEIVE phone calls on it directly.

      The point of the law is to stop people from doing thing like this. You want to talk to make amd receive calls while driving, text people, or use maps… Plug ur bloody smartphone in and use Siri handsfree.

      The watch is redundant here.

      Just wait until the first car crash due to Apple Watch distracted driver. U’ll all be making excuses even then, until it happens to u. Get out of ur basements and get some air.

  1. Oh yeah……….the PoPo is going to be arresting people for a Watch on their wrist……….How about going after real serious criminal misconduct…….oh i’m sorry….much more fun to pursue the “Apple Watch is criminal product” hit-whoring NONSENSE!!!!!!

    Yeah arrest me for wearing a Watch while driving… lawyers will take your HOUSE and your PENSION…..!!! MORONS!!!!

  2. Why are they singling out AppleWatch and not other smartwatches? I thought one of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatches had its own carrier sim and could make and receive phone calls but yet they’re going after AppleWatch users. Wow. The anti-Apple bias is in full effect.

    1. You don’t go instituting a new policy for a device where there are only 27 of them sold* in the entire country. You do that when there are a million of them.

      * the number was scientifically derived by pulling it out of thin air (in order to make a point).

  3. The “stationary” argument aside, my reaction to this is:

    A watch is not a phone. Recommending it not be used while driving is fine, but not because it is a phone.

    (Not to spark a *waaaay* off topic fire, but this is like redefining marriage. Gays want rights? Fine. I’m okay with that. But marriage is, and always has been, an option. They just have to find the correct [opposite] gender. Not what they want? Then ask for what they want, not for us to bend what we have to what they want. They shouldn’t feel the need to be “married” just to ask for rights. That’s as honest and middle of the road as you can get – I’ll have people on *both* sides of that issue flaming me! But then look back at the on-topic issue. Is a watch a phone? Of course not! You can do what you want without changing definitions of what things are! That’s my point, and the only reason I bring it up.)

    1. “Marriage” occurs between a man and a woman, end of story. If people want single sex unions, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t, then they should think up a new name for it. “Hail” and “rain” are both precipitation, but they are slightly different so they have different names. My suggestion for single sex unions is based on a conjunction of Gay Marriage to form the new name of “garriage”. As in, I got “garried last week”. Any other suggestions?

  4. MDN Take come on, its more than having an ear piece on your wrist. Watching the unboxing video and they way the user uses the interface its obvious this thing shouldn’t be used while driving. Even if its just the speakerphone feature some people are going to be tempted to take their hand off the wheel and talk into their wrist and also to interact with the screen in some way.

  5. Whatever you call the device, it’s still a driving distraction if you treat it as such. Why are people arguing over what it’s called. It’s not relevant.

    1. Because the Aussie police said it will be treated as a mobile phone. Not that it will be treated as some other sort of distraction. That’s the only reason it is relevant. Otherwise, you are absolutely correct. It has the potential to be a distraction, which is already discouraged/illegal in any number of ways in most any country.

  6. I’m in New Zealand, just across the water from Australia. We, too, have a rule against using a mobile phone in a car. I generally oppose it but I do agree that there are grounds for a new rule against using a watch.

    The reason is not the usually-given one — that use of a device distracts the brain, takes attention away from the road environment. My opposition is that most instances of using the watch while driving, would require the re-focusing of the eyeballs. By contrast, using a phone as a phone, does not do that. It does, though, for texting and that recently has led to some horrific crashes.

    On the other hand, we also experience a very high rate of morons (often from China (but also from elsewhere) who drive on the wrong side of the road, leading to many fatalities. Head-on crashes are obviously far more-dangerous than, say, hitting a tree while texting.

    Personally, I don’t mind much if a texting driver dies by hitting a tree. It improves the wider gene pool. But, by definition, a head-on crash from being on the wrong side of the road usually kills innocent third parties.

    (Contrary to frequent American chauvanism, remember that more humans live in countries that drive on the left than on the right)

    The inconsistency I see in rules against using a phone, is “what about twiddling the radio buttons? Eating a sandwich? Putting on make-up? What about a simple conversation with a passenger? All can take attention away from the road. But I think the watch can do more than that. Refocusing the eyeballs presents a big safety issue, I think.

    As for the news report about “Australian police” it is worth noting that Australia, like America, is divided into states. Governments in Australian states have even-wider responsibilities and powers than those in American states. There is no such thing as the “Australian police” except for the AFP (Australian Federal Police, roughly-equivalent to the FBI) and they have nothing to do with traffic laws. Interested parties should ask “which state are you talking about?” When I lived there, the state with the reputation for being the most right-wing reactionary, authoritarian and backward-looking, was Queensland (capital: Brisbane). So much so, that others called it “the deep South” a snide reference to America;s southern states. Embarrassingly, the premier when I lived there was a former New Zealander, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Known as Jerky Joe.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.