What constitutes distracted driving?

What exactly constitutes ‘distracted’ has always been a bit complicated. It should be obvious that holding a phone in your hand, whether you are texting, on a phone call, or even changing a song, means you are focusing on something other than the road, and therefore driving distracted. However, based on a new ruling in the BC Court of Appeal that happened yesterday, what constitutes distracted driving may have been clarified a bit, and it appears, it is no longer limited to just a phone in hand.

In March of 2019, Zahir Rajani was ticketed with distracted driving after a police officer approached his car and saw Mr. Rajani’s phone plugged in and charging. It was facing up wedged between his leg and the seat. When Mr. Rajani challenged this ticket in traffic court, he argued that he should not have been charged for distracted driving since he had not been holding his phone in his hands. 

The ticket was upheld by the judicial justice, who reasoned that even though the phone was not in Mr. Rajani’s hand, it was still charging, and its position still had the possibility of becoming a distraction. Mr. Rajani then appealed this decision to the BC Supreme Court, who found:

“The judicial justice had erred in finding the mere presence of a phone in a vehicle was a distraction and that charging constituted “use.”

However, regardless of this finding, the original decision was upheld.

Even though the phone had not been in Mr. Rajani’s hand, the court believed that it constituted a position that could become a distraction since it was still beside him. 

Mr. Rajani appealed this decision to the BC Court of Appeal, but they also upheld the ruling, reasoning that having a phone on or under your leg was still considered distracted driving.

Hopefully, this decision will clarify what exactly is considered distracted driving moving forward and help drivers better understand the dos and don’ts of distracted driving to avoid tickets in the future. 

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