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B.C. Supreme Court Judge Rules Cellphone in Lap is Distracted Driving

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A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld a previous ruling reaffirming a cellphone on your lap constitutes as distracted driving.

Back in March 2019, Zahir Rajani was stopped in Victoria by a police officer who saw the man driving while looking down at his lap. Rajani was pulled over and the officer saw a cellphone being charged beside his right lap.

Rajani took his ticket to provincial court and pleaded his case, noting he was looking down but he wasn’t using the phone. The judge ruled his cellphone, “perched, if not on his lap, rather precariously beside his lap” meant the man had broken distracted driving lawson the province.

The ruling was appealed by Rajani but on Monday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the original ruling, saying a cellphone near a driver’s lap was the same as “holding” it.

According to Justice Heather MacNaughton’s decision, “Even on Mr. Rajani’s evidence, the phone was being supported in a way that permitted its use. Having the phone wedged between his thigh and the seat, facing up, is having it supported by a part of his body and it put the phone in a position in which it could be used. It was ‘held’ in a position in which it could be used,” detailed the ruling, reports Global News.

The ruling is another example of why B.C.’s distracted driving laws are “incredibly confusing”, said Kyla Lee, a Vancouver lawyer with experience fighting these cases. Lee says the ruling overrides a previous decision which said the opposite was okay.

“Does this mean I can’t have my phone in my pocket? Does this mean I can’t have my phone tucked into my bra?”, Lee said to Global News, adding the latest decision could still be challenged, as it does not add clarity to what drivers can do.

A single distracted driving violation ticket is $368 in B.C., along with 4 penalty points applied to a driving record. First infractions mean these points result in a $252 ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium, thus a first infraction will cost a driver $620.

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