Editors note: this article has been updated to include comments from Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee.
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On Thursday (March. 9), the Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Police Service joined forces with ICBC for “Operation Hang Up.”
This campaign reminds drivers to leave their phones alone while driving. Surrey RCMP and Surrey police service were at Highway 10 and 152 Street looking for drivers who were on their phones. Anyone caught was issued a ticket. Cell watch volunteers were also reminding drivers to leave their phones alone.
Sgt. Jason Barrett with Surrey RCMP’s traffic enforcement unit said that the motor vehicle act allows drivers to activate their phones with one single touch. If it takes more than that, it is considered distracted driving.
Sgt. Barrett said it is considered distracted driving for drivers to have their phone loose on the passenger seat. “Under the motor vehicle act and regulations, it has to be affixed to your vehicle so it cannot move around because that also is a distraction,” Sgt. Barrett said.
Kyla Lee, a Vancouver defence lawyer, told the Now-Leader on Tuesday (March. 14) this is not the case. In 2019, Lee took a case to the B.C. Supreme Court where the Judge ruled it is not illegal to have your phone loose on your passenger seat or in the cup holder. Lee said what it comes down to, is whether or not you are actively using your phone.
A ticket for distracted driving is $368 plus four penalty points to your driving record.
Joanne Bergman, the road safety co-ordinator for ICBC, said on average about 77 people die every year in B.C. due to distracted driving.
According to ICBC, distracted driving is the second leading cause of car crashes in the province.
“It’s not acceptable,” Bergman said. “We’re hoping that today by giving some more education and enforcement to remind drivers about putting away their phones that it goes a long way,” Bergman said.
The distracted driving law applies when your vehicle is stopped at a red light or slowed in traffic.
Surrey RCMP stated in a news release on Wednesday that, “distracted driving is considered any non-driving activity that impacts a driver’s ability to focus on the road.”
Bergman added that most people who are caught distracted driving are using an electronic device. “We have (also seen) a lot of people with pets on their lap, eating a hamburger, grabbing a coffee, using their GPS on a handheld device,” Bergman said. “We just need to get people to stop looking at other things and pay attention to the roads.”
ICBC offers a number of tips for safe cellphone use on its website:
•No call, text or email is so important it’s worth risking your life or the lives of others. Let calls go to voicemail and ignore your text messages while driving.
•Turn it to silent and keep it out of reach and out of sight, or turn on “Do not disturb while driving” features that will send automatic replies to incoming texts and route incoming calls to voicemail.
•Assign a designated texter. Ask your passengers to make or receive calls and texts for you.
•Plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need before hitting the road, like programming your navigation and infotainment systems in advance so you’re not trying to do it while driving.
•Pull over to make or receive a call when it’s safe and legal to do so. For longer journeys, look for signs at highway rest areas, some of which now provide free Wi-Fi.
•Avoid looking at screens while driving, even if you’re using your phone hands-free.
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