In British Columbia, distracted driving is the second leading cause of car accident fatalities and the cause of one-quarter of all crashes. Driver distraction entails attention being diverted from driving tasks. This can result in significant costs to society, such as: tragic loss of life, serious injuries, health expenses, property damage and insurance rates.
Activities that can impact your ability to focus on the road come in a wide range of forms, from visual distractions inside and outside the vehicle, to cognitive distractions when using electronic devices. ICBC research on distracted driving indicates that drivers fail to process approximately 50 percent of the visual information in their driving environment when they are using electronic communication devices.
While texting on a communications device is often recognized as one of the most common distractions behind the wheel and the riskiest behaviour, distractions like seeking preferred music or personal grooming can significantly divert your attention as well. ICBC has found that telephone conversations are much more distracting than in-vehicle conversations – perhaps because passengers can observe the road, provide warning, adjust conversation tone according to traffic conditions, and the like – while telephone conversations contain fewer pauses and demand greater cognitive resources.
Rules and Penalties for Electronic Devices While Driving
The Motor Vehicle Act, Part 3.1 — Use of Electronic Devices While Driving specifically addresses the use of electronic devices while driving. A driver found using a hand-held electronic device while driving may receive a $368 traffic violation ticket that also carries 4 penalty points. Offences and infractions that include penalty points can lead to a driving prohibition.
Stricter limitations are imposed on drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP). Being exempt from s.214.2 of the Motor Vehicle Act means that drivers with a Learners or Novice licence aren’t permitted to use any electronic device behind the wheel, including a hands-free headset or speakerphone.
While distracted driving is a concern for all road users, new and young drivers are considered a particularly vulnerable group to distracted driving accidents due to a combination of inexperience, a tendency toward greater risk-taking, and higher than average use of electronic devices.
How the Courts Have Dealt With the Use of Electronic Devices While Driving
The courts have generally been un-permissive with respect to defence claims for the use of electronic devices while driving. For example, in R. v. Schull 2013 BCPC 132, Mr. Schull was charged with using an electronic device while driving, contrary to s. 214.2(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, after a police officer saw him using a device while driving that looked like a cell phone. In reality, the device was actually a voice recorder.
The court stated that to the common reasonable person, a voice recorder is an electronic device in the same manner as is a radio, tape recorder, or a Game Boy machine. Recording your voice on a voice recorder while driving is no less distracting than holding a cell phone in a manner in which it may be used while driving.
Tips for Avoiding Distractions
There are many ways that can try to become a safer driver. ICBC’s “Driver Distraction and Cell Phone Use” provides a good starting point. Some tips that a fully licenced driver should abide by are to ensure that you have Bluetooth for the hands-free use of any electronic device, that you ignore texts while driving or assign a designated “texter”, and that you pull over to use a GPS or map for directions.
Contact Taylor and Blair, Your Vancouver BC Injury Lawyers
If you need an injury lawyer in Vancouver, talk to us at Taylor and Blair. We deal with ICBC lawyers in Vancouver and Coquitlam regularly on injury claims where the accident was caused by cell phone use or another form of distracted driving. Our Vancouver BC lawyers can assist you with your ICBC claim to ensure it is filed properly, within the time limits and that your legal interests are protected and represented. We work hard to obtain the most compensation possible for each claim. Contact us at Taylor and Blair at 604-737-6900.