Handsome Businessman Talking on the Phone While Driving a Car to Work. Man of Style and Status in Full Suit Driving a Car and using Smartphone. Successful Man Sitting Behind the Wheel of a Prestigious Car and Talking to his Client on the Phone.

A $543 fine is a good reason not to phone it in

This year a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that having a cellphone loose in your vehicle does not add up to distracted driving, as long as you are not actually using the device.  The decision resulted from a driver who appealed a traffic conviction after a police officer found a cellphone wedged in the cushions of the driver’s car seats.

If that ruling made you wonder if you had some kind of reprieve from distracted driving penalties, it doesn’t.

REALTORS® are the quintessential multitaskers on the move. The temptation is always there to take a call, send a text, or check a listing while in your car. And this recent ruling doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the brakes.

The Motor Vehicle Act says you may only use electronic devices while driving in a hands-free manner and the device must be securely fixed to the vehicle, not loosely sitting on the seat or in your lap, or even in a cup holder. If it’s on your body, it has to be secured in place, such as in a pocket.

Studies show that drivers who are talking on a cellphone lose about half of what’s going on around them, visually.

The law also says you must not touch the phone while driving. The same is true of any hand-held audio player.

You may voice-activate your device or use only one touch in order to initiate, accept or end a call.

If using an earpiece, it can only be in one ear. For driving safety, the other ear should be clear to hear traffic and other sounds.  

You are five times more likely to crash if you’re on the phone while driving.

You may use a microphone while driving on a highway as long as it’s within easy reach.

Video or television is not allowed to distract the driver’s eye, with the exception of GPS and that can only be used secured and hands-free.

Distracted driving laws apply, even when you’re stopped at a light or waiting in slow traffic.

Distracted driving has increased vehicle accidents, and accounts for at least 27% of all car crash deaths in BC.

When you’re distracted, your reactions are slower. So, if you are involved in a conversation while driving—even though you may be hands-free—your concentration is not as sharp as when you are focused on the road.

That is why road safety advocates would like all drivers to avoid talking on the phone altogether.  They recommend that if you need to have a phone conversation while driving, you get off the road and park.

But be careful. Although you are allowed pull off the roadway to make a call, you must be parked safely so you are not impeding traffic by parking on the shoulder of the road.  

On average 77 people die every year in crashes where distracted driving is a contributing factor.

People with an L or N license are not permitted to use any personal electronic devices while driving.

The penalty for one distracted driving ticket is $543 for a first offence, and $888 for a second offence and four penalty points. You can probably think of a thousand better ways to spend that kind of money.