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Just holding a cell phone while behind the wheel is now against the law

Monday, January 4th, 2010 | 4:30 pm

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By Joe Fries

It’s going to take a pretty creative excuse to get out of a ticket for violating B.C.’s new distracted driver law.

Effective Jan. 1, anyone caught holding a cell phone, PDA, portable music player or other electronic device while operating a motor vehicle is eligible for a $167 ticket. If the cop can prove you were actually using it, expect three demerit points, too.

That means simply fidgeting with a portable music player while stopped at a light is now against the law, according to RCMP Staff Sgt. Al Dengis, head of Central Okanagan Traffic Services.

“All the police are required to establish is that the individual was holding onto an electronic device,” he said.

Cops don’t have to prove that the device was in use or even on at the time of the offence.

“We simply have to show that you were driving the vehicle and holding the device,” Dengis explained.

He noted, though, that the tickets can be disputed in court where it will be your word against the cop.

Of course, if you have a regular Class 5 licence, there are numerous ways around the law, such as hands-free devices for phones and voice-activated GPS systems. If you’re a new driver in the graduated licensing program, there is no way around it.

Take heart, though, because police across B.C. won’t start writing tickets for B.C. drivers until Feb. 1 and will only issue warnings until then. Out-of-province visitors won’t get dinged until after April 1 in order to accommodate Olympic tourists, Dengis said.

He noted that cops won’t go too far out of their way with targetted enforcement to find people breaking the rules, but will keep their eyes peeled. ”If we see the offence, we’ll deal with it,” he added.

Dengis said no specific benchmarks have been set to measure the effectiveness of the legislation, which is aimed at curbing distracted driving, but likened it to seatbelt laws, which have proven remakably effective.

Notable exceptions to the law exist for police officers, paramedics and firefighters, who travel in vehicles stuffed with gadgets and are often seen using the devices while driving.

Dengis said emergency workers can still use onboard electronics “for duty purposes,” but that Mounties, at least, have been advised to do so carefully.

“We’re conveying the information to them that even though there is the exemption, they’re still required to be operating their vehicle in a safe manner.”

The provincial government has posted extensive information online that details the ins and outs of the new law.
joe@kelowna.com
250-575-4303

Just holding a cell phone while behind the wheel is now against the law3.051

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19 Responses to “Just holding a cell phone while behind the wheel is now against the law”

  1. Craig says:
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    Three things wrong here: Out of-provincers get warnings to accomodate the games? Seriously, “Come, break our laws, we’ll leave you alone”. I’m actually FROM a non-commie province (Alberta) and I find that ruling insane. Make the law for everyone. And on that note, “Police are exempted as they need to run every plate they see even if it means they’re a little distracted.” Again, the law should be the law for everyone. Second officer in the car can run plates, or it can be done safely while the officer is parked. Third dumb thing is that I actually support this law, and hope Alberta gets it soon, as I’ve been nearly hit by texting teens at least twice in 2009, and that’s two more close calls than I should have had. Anyways, enjoy another grab at your cash, BC drivers! Hope it helps pay down the olympic-debt!

  2. Buzzard says:
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    Really, don’t they have anything better to do?

  3. GD Star Rating
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    This anti-cell phone law is unconstitutional, plain and simple for it assumes that one had diminished capacity when one is using a cell phone or other device in the car while driving. I’d like them to prove that I had diminished capacity even once while using a cell phone at any time for the past two decades.

    Sure if a person is in an accident and it can be shown that a cell phone or a distraction was occurring and that that caused the accident that is one thing and the proper burden of proof of a contributing factor.

    Failing an actual problem, such as an accident, it well neigh impossible for them to prove that a driver has “diminished capacity” just because they were using a cell phone. It’s not like the case of alcohol.

    However, to assume we are all guilty of diminished capacity just for holding a device or using a cell phone while driving is insanity and fails the burden of proof of guilt.

    To blanket assume that everyone has diminished capacity using a cell phone device while driving is itself a serious crime against our basic rights and freedom.

    Since they (the politicians who arbitrarily make arbitrary laws) give certain people exceptions they are further widening the gap between first class citizens – those with the power and special privileges above the law – and those second class humans that are forced against their will to obey insane laws that violate basic principles of freedom free from guilt.

    This is another form of guilt by association. Have the phone in your hand while in the drivers seat and you are guilty. Insane.

    Be very clear the burden that diminished capacity to drive MUST be proven by the prosecutors if you are faced with this insane charge. This is true especially if you’re on the phone and safely operating the vehicle properly and with awareness on the road conditions, other vehicles and pedestrians.

    I think we’ll see that there are many defenses against this insane law and it’s very possible that it will be struck down as unconstitutional in a free country that values it’s freedom.

    If someone is driving while not paying attention to the road conditions then they might be a road hazard however to blanket make us all criminals guilty of an offense for using a cell phone while driving is a dangerous sign of a totalitarian mentality.

    One must fight back against the totalitarian mentality of those in the CULT of “government” who want to attempt to control every aspect of our lives at all costs to our freedom. Use your Natural Veto Power as a living human being and say NO to this. Fight these charges in court. File counter charges against officers, prosecutors, court staff, government members and staff, and judges who implement this draconian police state tactic of control over you.

  4. John says:
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    Holy Cow! We need bluetooth now more then ever!

  5. Ed says:
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    So I guess fiddling with your car’s radio is now illegal…

  6. Jubal says:
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    Peter, by your absolutely over the top post it is quite apparent you use your cell phone allot while driving, text message while driving too?

    Just a few days ago I saw an idiot run a red while text messaging then damn near hit a pedestrian(whom also wasn’t paying much attention)

    Yes this is a blanket law, but I think it is a good one that will save lives.

    Quit whining and pull over to take phone calls.

  7. Don says:
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    What about truckers and R.V.drivers and their c.b.’s ?

  8. andrew says:
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    This is unbelievably stupid. How am I supposed to change the song I’m listening to on my phone? Apparently I have to pull over now if I want to skip a song, or switch to a different music folder. This is something that takes about 4 or 5 seconds and now it’s illegal. I can understand if you’re some moron yakking on your phone, or texting, but not simply holding the phone. This has to be one of the stupidest laws EVER passed.

  9. GD Star Rating
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    Actually I don’t text while driving. Cell phone use isn’t a problem when paying attention to the road as the main priority.

    Yes, there are idiots out there driving and taking away their cell phone while they are driving won’t change their bad road habits. They’ll still do the crazy stuff like unannounced u-turns in the middle of intersections or yelling at their passengers or whatever they do or weaving in traffic while driving slow or making fast stops or not driving in their lane.

    You can’t punish us good drivers because the others are whacked in the head or half a sleep or drunk or high or medicated or angry. You need to address the whacked in the head drivers directly for dangerous driving.

    Casting a wide net is illegal as it assumes we are all criminals.

    So Jubal get the “idiot who ran the red” for running the red! Did you get his plate number and report him? If not why not? Don’t punish me or the rest of us for HIS or your crime Jubal!

    By the way don’t tell me to to shut up Jubal, you don’t have that right. You can be a lemming and bow down and have your rights curtailed willy nilly at the whim of the power brokers all you want but don’t force the rest of us to take it in the end as you again don’t have that right to abridge our freedom.

    Truckers, taxis and commercial two way radio operators along with police, emergency crews, etc… are magically exempt somehow from these unproven alleged effects of diminished ability to drive and communicate. Magic thus invalid. In fact the fact that they are exempt is a defense against this unjust law! Since they can drive safe so can I! In fact I’m a safe driver!

    If the police fail to cite themselves for their own use of communications or computer gear while they are driving they are saying they are special people who deserve better treatment than others and are above equality in the law. Typical.

    Treating one group as better than another leads to abuses. This unjust and unconstitutional law will fracture society even more than it is.

    It shall be interesting to see how it falls apart.

    My full comment is here: http://pathstoknowledge.net/2010/01/04/police-state-deepens-in-british-columba-with-anti-cell-phone-laws

  10. GD Star Rating
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    I do agree that texting,etc distracts one’s attiontion, to what going on around you when your driving.I belive there is still the law on the books in regards to driving with both hand on wheel, except to shift gears etc, in regsrd to operate of car. then we are doing same thing drinking coffee, eating burger,and the list can go on and on.Fireman police, emergency drivers,this inplying that they are trained experts, yet the rest of us are not capable of doing same thing.SO four cops can trazer an older man five times and same they feared for they life’s.If there men are breaking down my door and I use large knife steel bar I’m in the wrong, as I used greater force. The mian reasoning to this is you or some one esle could be hurt, like bike helmets,seat belts ansd so on, Guess next week no skiing, skydiving, swining,playing of golf, and why not no more hockey as all actions could injure you or someone else.the goverment has been taxing the smoker to and early grave, yet again they do just ban it as OH NO we the goverment would lost to much in taxs and too many people out of work. Again they say they are deserve so much more in wages an golden hand shake pensions. When are we the people going to demand wise and smart men and women to be there to guide the’re countrymen in making well throught out choice’s in what we the people want and need not what a few select in the ruling goverment think and order the rest of party in power to push it thougt and call that a democredit ruling party. So I’m going to sign off with a statement I’ve come too beleive in those few that destory one another to get said power’ should be banned from doing so as the’re more dangerous to us as leader then all cellphone drivers.

  11. Corey says:
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    I’m an Albertan and I want a cellphone law here just like B.C. and Saskatchewan. I don’t get the whining over this. Because I don’t use a cell phone while driving I’m more aware. I’ve actually avoided about 10 collisions with others who were using cell phones. If I were distracted by the phone as well, one or more of those avoidances would have been a collision. This is no different than the seatbelt law. We shouldn’t need a law but without it, there would be many more injuries. So buckle up and shut up!

  12. Scott says:
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    Hey Peter William Lount,

    I see where you’re coming from and I agree that they should be going after the actual problem, not just blanketing everyone with this law. However, the resources don’t exists for this to happen and probably never will. I figure that my right to use a cell phone while I drive is not worth someone’s life. I use a Bluetooth headset and I don’t text while I drive, but I don’t want the person next to me texting while they drive at 100km/h+ on a highway. Unfortunately this does happen and it will cause accidents. The law was created because there are idiots who text and do various other things that they shouldn’t be doing while driving. Yes it affects the rest of us, but if it saves a life, it is worth it.

  13. gkvp says:
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    Peter, agree with you absolutely!

    Except for a couple of statements:

    “I think we’ll see that there are many defenses against this insane law and it’s very possible that it will be struck down as unconstitutional in a free country that values it’s freedom.”

    Which country you are talking about? Canada? This country became corrupted police state long time ago, thanks to speechless citizens (with rare exceptions like you) who open there mouths just to repeat what they heard on TV. I think you are way overoptimistic with your statement.

    “Failing an actual problem, such as an accident, it well neigh impossible for them to prove that a driver has “diminished capacity” just because they were using a cell phone”

    For long time already nobody having authority (even a bit of it) needs to prove anything. You can be stopped and fined for nothing. In Ontario, for example, you can be even thrown out of your car and you vehicle be towed away just because a cop decided that you were driving over 50 in posted zone. Oh yes, you can go to court later (“where it will be your word against the cop” – ha, ha, ha), you are even encouraged to hire a lawyer, and you can even win the case later, with a little drawback though – you immediately loose a few thousand dollars (towing, fee for vehicle storage, lawyer etc.) which go directly into system in order to feed those hungry mouths. Anyone wants to discuss real taxation level in Canada?

    “Fight these charges in court. File counter charges against officers, prosecutors, court staff, government members and staff, and judges who implement this draconian police state tactic of control over you”.
    Did you try? If yes, share your experience. I tried.

  14. GD Star Rating
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    This cell phone ban really isn’t about making the roads any safer. It’s really just about ICBC having an easier time to prosecute people so that they don’t have to do any actual hard work of proving driver distraction in each case as they did last week.

    Now ICBC can just magically say that you were distracted without having to actually prove it in your case. That makes their job so much easier that it’s not funny. As a bonus ICBC won’t have to pay for your claim since you’re guilty of a crime by default if you were using a device in your car.

    One reason that this law is unconstitutional is that in Canada we have the right to be presumed innocent until we are proven guilty (“11(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty …”). This cell phone ban attempts to by pass this important constitutional protection and place the burden upon us saying that we are guilty of diminished capacity just because we were using a cell phone in our hands rather than in a speaker mode. In effect we’ll have to prove that were are not guilty of the assumed crime of diminished capacity or loss of focus or however they magically word it in sly tongued legalese.

    My comment continues here: The BC Cell Phone Ban is an Unconstutional Power Grab by ICBC to Avoid Paying Out Claims. http://pathstoknowledge.net/2010/01/05/the-bc-cell-phone-ban-is-an-unconstutional-power-grab-by-icbc-to-avoid-paying-out-claims.

  15. john says:
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    is an electric vibrator considered an electronic device?

  16. gkvp says:
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    “is an electric vibrator considered an electronic device?”

    No it is electric – therefore jail immediately without any chance for parole

  17. KB says:
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    What will the RCMP do when drivers start putting phones in their body? It is just beggining of a new trend.
    As for the plate issue, License plates are the biggest security flaw when exposed to the right mind.
    screw your law.

  18. Matt says:
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    Hi there, I agree with the new law to a point. If they are so concered about distractions while driving, what about those who read paper work on the way home from work, even some girls that are doing their hair, or putting on make up in the car because they left late? ( not trying to be sexist, just trying to prove a point ). I find that having a pasenger in the car is more of a distraction then talking to someone on a hands free device, your more likely to look over at them while your talking, then if you were on the phone. For someone who has their class 5 is able to use a bluetooth, and a navigation device, but if you are a learner or a novice driver your not allowed at all. I can understand for a learner, becuase they are Learning how to drive, but and novice driver??? I just want to say that I have my N and can get rid of it at anytime, but to say just because i have an N on the back of my car, I cant use anything, is a little harsh concidering, the day I pass my test, i can go on the phone hands free right away.., it just doesnt make sense. Dont get me wrong, I do see what their saying, I agree with hands free, but look at those who do other things in car while driving, that can and are more of a distraction then a phone call

    thank you

  19. AL says:
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    While I understand the law in principle, surely if the Provincial Government is serious about ridding the roads of driver distractions they would also include drivers putting on make-up, riding with pets in the front passenger seat (or on laps), folks wolfing down food while driving, etc… all of which are equally if not more distracting than talking on a cell phone. It should also be noted that with so many ‘fixed’ gadgets in cars today from GPS displays to complex stereo systems, on-board satellite radios, Ceiling mounted DVD players, etc… there are plenty of non-handheld devices to distract drivers.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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