Woman caught with phone 'below her thigh' dinged with distracted driving ticket
Motorists merge from four lanes into one as they enter the Lions Gate Bridge to drive into Vancouver, B.C., on July 15, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. judge has ruled that holding a cellphone in your legs is enough to warrant a distracted driving charge – even if you aren't using the device to talk or text.
Justice Joseph Chellappan's decision is the latest in a series of court decisions that make clear the province's distracted driving laws aren't just for people who recklessly take their eyes off the road to look at their devices.
In the latest incident, Christa Eileen Anderson was ticketed after a Vancouver police officer caught her driving down King Edward Avenue with a cellphone "held in her leg just below her thigh," according to the decision.
As a result, Anderson was charged under Sec. 214.2(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act and dinged with a distraction ticket.
She tried to challenge the charge in court, arguing that she wasn't actually using the phone – but as Chellappan noted, under the definition set out under the law, her device actually was in "use."
The Motor Vehicle Act has four definitions for "use," and one of them is "holding the device in a position in which it may be used."
Chellappan noted that holding a cellphone in your legs isn't even allowed when making a hands-free call. The device must be securely fixed to the vehicle within easy reach, or worn securely on the driver's body.
In Anderson's case, the judge found the cellphone was "being surreptitiously held" in a way that doesn't meet either test.
The driver made one other argument – that the ticketing officer shouldn't be believed because they misspelled her name as "Andersen" on the ticket – but the judge was unconvinced.
"Ultimately, the fundamental question for consideration is whether the device was held in a position in which it may be used," Chellappan wrote. "The answer is in the affirmative."
Earlier this year, another judge found a B.C. man guilty of distracted driving because he had earbuds in his ears – even though his phone's battery was dead.