Simply having your cell phone nearby while driving is no longer grounds for a police officer to issue a ticket, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.
In a March 1 decision, posted online last week, Justice Murray Blok ruled in favour of Philip Gary Leone Partridge, who had appealed an August 2018 conviction of using an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on a highway.
An officer had signalled for Partridge to pull over after seeing him looking downwards while driving. The officer saw a cell phone wedged between the folds of the passenger seat, with the screen facing the man.
But, Blok said in his decision, since he never saw the man touch his phone in any way, he could not be found guilty of using it.
“The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough to secure a conviction, leaving aside a situation where, for example, the screen is illuminated and so the driver may then be utilizing the cell phone in some fashion,” Blok said. Both Crown counsel and defence agreed, and the man was acquitted.
According to ICBC, police have issued more than 300,000 tickets for distracted driving since 2010.
The fine for using a device while driving is $369, as well as four insurance penalty points. Offenders who are caught twice within three years can be fined up to $2,000.