A young driver has been ordered to pay a distracted driving ticket after failing to argue to a B.C. judge that he was only using his phone to ignore a call from his mother.
According to the decision made in provincial court in Port Coquitlam Tuesday, Hao Bin Tang was driving on Barnet Highway in Port Moody in January when he was pulled over for speeding by a police officer who was using a radar detector curb-side.
The officer, who is not named in the court documents, told the judge that he approached the passenger side of the vehicle within seconds of the stop and saw Tang in the driver’s seat holding his lit-up cellphone in both hands with his head down.
He asked for Tang’s license and discovered he was a Class 7 or “Novice” driver, which meant he was under an electronic device restriction, the court heard. The officer issued Tang a $368 ticket for using an electronic device.
But Tang, who was born in 2000, told the judge he wasn’t using his phone while the vehicle was in motion.
“As a very educated and sane person I would definitely not have taken out my cell phone unless it was parked,” Tang said. “My mother was calling me.”
In order to turn off the call, Tang said, he pulled his car over and shut off the call, before returning it back to “the secure location” that it was in.
Justice Shusheela Joseph-Tiwary, who noted that Tang was “somewhat guarded on the stand,” wasn’t buying it.
Exactly how far cellphone restriction laws can go when it comes to penalizing distracted drivers have been put to the test several times over the last year. In March, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction.
Vancouver police cancelled a distracted driving ticket against a Lower Mainland senior after her son took to social media to show his mom’s phone was sitting in her cupholder when the officer gave her the fine.
But in this incident, given his Class 7 driving status, Tang wasn’t allowed to use a phone while driving – even if it were to be used hands free, Joseph-Tiwary said, noting that modern cellphones give plenty of options to be alerted to messages without directly looking at the phone screen.
“Mr. Tang had the ability to not only receive calls and messages on his active phone, but to also monitor activity to determine who was calling as he drove on the highway prior to his coming to a stop,” Joseph-Tiwary continued. “Simply leaving the phone turned on within the vehicle, say, in the console area is sufficient to facilitate access to the information on the phone.”
Joseph-Tiwary added that she isn’t suggesting “N” drivers are prohibited from physically having a cell phone in their car all together and are allowed to use them in a case of emergency or when parked, as laid out in the Motor Vehicle Act regulations. However, “incoming calls and information on the device operating within the vehicle poses a source of distraction.”
Tang was ordered to pay the fine.