The offense of distracted driving is not limited to a driver holding a cellphone in their hands while behind the wheel, British Columbia’s highest court ruled.
B.C.’s highest court upheld a ruling that a driver was driving distracted despite the defendant’s insistence “was merely wedged between his thigh and car seat when he was stopped by police.”
According to a new report from CTV, the driver, Zahir Rajani, argued that since he wasn’t actually holding the device in his hands, the distraction ticket was unwarranted.
A police officer who was conducting what he referred to as a “cellphone set-up” at that location observed Rajani looking down in his vehicle. When the officer approached the vehicle, he said he saw a cellphone connected to a cord face-up in Rajani’s lap.
Rajani agreed that he had been looking down when the officer first saw him, but testified that the phone was wedged between his right thigh and the car seat, facing up.
The court ruled that the phone’s exact location made no difference because it was a potential distraction and was in use because it was being charged.
A driver did not need to be holding the phone in their hands to be in violation of the law, the court ruled. Drivers operating their vehicles with electronic devices in their laps, between their thighs, tucked under their arms or chins, or supported by other parts of their bodies could also run afoul of the law.
“Now we have real clarity about what it means to hold, or use, electronic devices while driving,” lawyer Sarah Leahmon told CTV.
“It extends it beyond simply holding it with your hands to perhaps propping it up with another body part.”