EDITORIAL – Definition of ‘using’ phone while driving needs to be clarified

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

DID YOU HEAR THE ONE about the trucker who got a fine? Nothing to do with freedom convoys.

A trucker was driving from Chilliwack to Kamloops when he was pulled over by a police officer and charged with distracted driving for using his cell phone. He was fined $368.

The trucker appealed it in court. He was not, he said, using his cell phone. He heard it buzzing, picked it up with his left hand, switched it to his right and put it down.

Doesn’t matter, said the judge — you swerved into the next lane, causing the officer to “take evasive action.” To no avail, the driver disputed having wandered into the other lane.

But here’s the interesting part. The Crown argued that, even if the driver was telling the truth, he was still guilty of distracted driving under the Motor Vehicle Act. The judge agreed. Now that seems a bit harsh.

It reminds me of the case a couple of years ago in which a senior was handed one of those $368 tickets for having her cell phone in her cup holder. She wasn’t holding the phone or even looking at it at the time.

After an ensuing public debate over B.C.’s confusing distracted-driving laws, Vancouver police squelched the ticket.

In another case, the situation was similar and that fine, too, was voided. So at least we now know a cell phone isn’t a distraction just because it’s visible.

If you happen to touch it, though, it’s a different story, even if you’re not talking or texting. The meaning of “using” a phone seems simple enough, except in B.C. law. It badly needs to be clarified.

There’s good reason for cracking down on anything approaching a distraction — several hundred Canadians are killed each year due to distracted driving but is enforcement overdone?

The lesson for now is, don’t even look at your phone. And maybe hide it just in case.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9370 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Definition of ‘using’ phone while driving needs to be clarified

  1. Ian MacKenzie // February 15, 2022 at 7:02 AM // Reply

    Considering the cost of accidents and deaths on our roads and highways the law should demand that the driver’s eyes should never leave the road and its tributary connections. The need for a phone call should never cause an accident. All mobile phones should be completely out of sight, reach, and sound when driving. If a call out MUST be made it should only be made when the vehicle is off the road with the motor turned off.

  2. Mel, you make some interesting observations. The link provided concerns a fatality involving a driver that was distracted by the in-vehicle computer system.

    Are the RCMP exempt from the distracted driving law in BC?
    What about other public safety agencies such as Kamloops Fire Rescue or BC Ambulance Service?

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