Police are sending incorrect messaging of law, lawyer says

A Vancouver defense lawyer is calling out the Surrey RCMP for incorrect messaging around distracted driving law.

Kyla Lee told the Now-Leader on Tuesday (March 14) part of the problem is ICBC and police are sending different messages about what’s legal and what isn’t.

“Nobody is trained or informed of the law, nobody’s actually clearing their comms through a lawyer who’s familiar with it,” said Lee, a criminal defense and impaired driving lawyer with expertise in defending distracted cases in court.

“The public messaging is incorrect. No wonder the public is confused.”

On Thursday (March. 9), the Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Police Service joined forces with ICBC for “Operation Hang Up.” The campaign aims to remind drivers to leave their phones alone while driving.

The Surrey RCMP and Surrey Police Service were at Highway 10 and 152 Street looking for drivers on their phones.

During the campaign event, Sgt. Jason Barrett with Surrey RCMP’s traffic enforcement unit told the media it is considered distracted driving for drivers to have their phones loose on the passenger seat.

“Under the motor vehicle act and regulations, it has to be affixed to your vehicle so it cannot move around because that is also a distraction,” Sgt. Barrett said.

Lee said this is not the case.

In 2019, Lee took a case to the BC Supreme Court where the judge ruled it is not illegal to have your phone loose in your passenger seat or in the cup holder. Lee told the Now-Leader on Tuesday (March. 14) what it comes down to, is whether or not you are actively using your phone.

Lee added that a lot of confusion stems from the fact that laws need to be updated to “keep in step with current technology.”

“There is no logic behind the law based on how we use our phones now,” said Lee.

For example, she said it is currently prohibited under the law to dictate a text message.

And while Sgt. Barrett was correct when he said drivers were allowed to activate their phones with a single touch, Lee said the single touch was only allowed to answer calls. It does not allow for changing a song or changing your GPS.

It doesn’t matter what type of phone mount you are using, Lee said, as long as it is securely mounted to your vehicle and is not at risk of falling. Also, it must not block your field of view or gear shift. Because of that a window mount is not allowed, as it obstructs your view.

Lee also offers recommendations for if you do get pulled over for suspected distracted driving.

“You don’t want to do anything that would escalate the situation,” said Lee. “So just take the ticket, fight it in court.”

It doesn’t cost money to fight it in court.

A ticket for distracted driving is $368 plus four penalty points to your driving record.


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distracted drivingICBCSurreySurrey Police Servicesurrey rcmp

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