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Tickets issued for phones, other distractions while driving

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Langara traffic line-up on Ontario Street approaching West 49th.
Using your phone while stopped in traffic is a violation of the Motor Vehicle Act. Photo: Sandy Powlik

Reported by Sandy Powlik

Vancouver police issue about 10,000 tickets every year for using an electronic device while driving or operating a vehicle, but ICBC and the B.C. government say there’s more to distracted driving than playing on your cellphone.

Last month police, ICBC and the B.C. government launched a distracted driving campaign. However, it is still unclear what distracted driving actually entails.

The ICBC website states that “distracted driving is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C,” and that “using your phone while driving means you are distracted.”

What is distracted driving?

By definition, a distraction is anything that diverts attention. When it comes to legal enforcement, it appears there is still no universal meaning.

“There’s more thinking involved in using your cellphone and more prolonged eye-time away from the road,” said Langara ESL teacher Britta Poschenrieder.

According to Const. Brian Montague of the Vancouver Police Department, “distracted driving is a term that has been used by media and the public to explain the use of a cellphone while driving. It could include a number of other things and is not really a term we define.”

South Vancouver resident, Ryan Gourlay. Photo by Sandy Powlik.
South Vancouver resident, Ryan Gourlay. Photo: Sandy Powlik

Strict laws still enforced

On Sept. 26, South Vancouver resident Ryan Gourlay got a ticket. “I was at a red light. I wasn’t actually driving.”

Gourlay had pulled his phone out to check directions and an officer walked up to his window and ticketed him. Gourlay explained that multiple drivers were pulled over for the same infraction at the same time. “It should get more black-and-white and I imagine more people would follow the regulations,” he said.

 Stuck in traffic or stopped at a red light? #Leaveyourphonealone – you’re still driving! @Rock101Van http://t.co/Or6HVhkHy1 ^kp — ICBC (@icbc) October 6, 2014

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, “a person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway,” including being stopped at a light or in traffic.

“The message is very clear,” says Montague. “Simply leave your phone alone when behind the wheel.”

Yet the B.C. government says people are not getting the message and may increase penalties. ICBC also wants to hike rates due to more injury claims mainly from distracted driving.

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