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The ongoing miniaturization of electronic technology means that we are finally entering an age in which the "Dick Tracy" watch, a device you can wear on your wrist that serves as a communication device as well as a timepiece, is moving from the comic book pages to the real world. As this occurs, it may raise a question as to how New York law governing the use of hand-held devices while driving will treat such devices.

The state law as it is presently written concerning portable electronic devices states that such devices are "hand-held". It goes on to state that "using" such a device means holding it while viewing or transmitting images or while sending, reading, or otherwise accessing text messages, email or other electronic data. This last item might presumably include such things as webpages or Internet videos.

Although the law contains certain exceptions, such as "hands-free" devices or handheld devices attached to the interior surface of the vehicle, it was apparently written before the advent of "smart watches" that could double as personal digital assistants.

Since their introduction a few years ago, these watches have steadily increased in their capabilities. They now feature larger screens, the ability to synchronize with handheld devices to send and receive electronic information, and the latest generation now features a built-in phone of its own with its own SIM card. The result is a standalone communication device.

As this new technology matures and becomes more widespread, it is perhaps only a matter of time before more and more drivers in this state are going to be pulled over for a traffic infraction while using smartphones on their wrists to do activities that they could not have done legally if they had been holding a cellphone in one of their hands.

It should not come as a surprise that at some point in the future the state legislature may have to take another look at the laws governing hand-held devices to determine how wrist-worn technology should be considered.

This post should not be construed as legal advice. If you are pulled over for a violation of the law prohibiting the use of hand-held electronic devices an experienced traffic defense attorney is your best source for legal advice. An attorney might still be able to persuasively argue that such usage is not, in fact, illegal based upon the current definitions of the laws.


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