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Holding a Disabled Cell Phone Still Counts as Distracted Driving

June 17, 2020 | Car Accident Lawyer

Holding a cell phone while driving, even when disabling software makes it impossible to use, counts as distracted driving in British Columbia according to a recent ruling by the province’s Court of Appeal.

The ruling follows a three-year court battle, in which a Vancouver Island man (not represented by Warnett Hallen LLP) was ticketed for holding his cell phone on the steering wheel while he was driving.

While there was no dispute that he was holding the phone, the man argued that the phone had software that disabled all functions while the vehicle was moving and therefore could not have been a distraction. But according to B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Robert Bauman, a cell phone — even when it can’t function — is an electronic device, and electronic devices are prohibited from being handled while driving in British Columbia.

At Warnett Hallen LLP, our attorneys applaud this latest decision by the court. Distracted driving is unacceptable under any conditions. Cell phone use is the key contributing factor in the majority of distracted driving accidents in British Columbia. The court’s decision is a firm crackdown on how the handling of a phone, even with no intent to use it, pulls a driver’s attention away from the road.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

According to the B.C. government website, drivers fail to see roughly 50 percent of their driving environment when they are using electronic devices. As many as 25 percent of auto accidents can be attributed to distracted driving.

Although cell phone use is a key cause of distracted driving crashes, it is not the only one. Other examples include:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Personal grooming, such as applying makeup
  • Attending to children in the back seat
  • Talking to passengers
  • Searching for objects, like a purse or briefcase
  • Adjusting the radio, GPS, or climate controls

Under the Motor Vehicle Act Part 3.1 — Use of Electronic Devices, the law at Section 214.1 states that using a cell phone includes:

  • Holding a phone in a position when it could be used
  • Operating one or more of the device’s functions
  • Communicating orally by means of the device with another person or another device
  • Taking another action that is set out in the regulations by means of, with or in relation to an electronic device

Based on the Court of Appeal’s decision, it’s important for drivers to remember that simply holding a phone is enough to warrant a distracting driving offense. Holding your phone means that your hands aren’t fully on the steering wheel and that you won’t have proper control of the vehicle. Focusing on the phone is also a cognitive distraction, meaning that a driver’s mind is not focused solely on the road the way it should be.

When You Need a Vancouver Distracted Driving Lawyer

If a distracted driving crash in B.C. has injured you or a loved one, it’s possible to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. This money can help cover the cost of medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation, and other losses. Most of these claims are resolved in settlements with ICBC, but recent changes to the law limit how much certain car accident victims can receive. The best way to learn what you may be entitled to is by contacting an experienced ICBC lawyer at Warnett Hallen LLP.

Ready for help? We’re standing by. Contact our Vancouver law firm today for a free consultation.

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