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Holding or moving a cellphone while driving is against the law, B.C. judge rules

B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act prohibitions against cellphone aren't just about talking or texting but extend to other behaviour that could distract a driver, a B.C. Supreme Court judge says.
Just picking up or moving a cellphone while driving could result in a Motor Vehicle Act fine. (via Pexels)

Simply holding or moving a cellphone while driving is enough to trigger B.C. Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) penalties, a Chilliwack B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.

Massoud Fazel Bakhsheshi was convicted in May 2021 in Chilliwack Provincial Court for distracted driving.

He had alleged he was driving a six-axle commercial truck from Kamloops through Hope when he heard a sound from his door. He reached down and discovered his allegedly lost cellphone.

Bakhsheshi told the court he picked up the phone and then transferred it to his right hand. He then placed it on the dash. 

“He not only held it in his left hand. He transferred it into his right hand in the process, demonstrating the telltale signs of a duly distracted driver by swerving. With his large tractor-trailer combination, six axles, swerved from his lane onto another lane,” the provincial court decision said.

Bakhsheshi was fined $368. He said that due to the points he received from this violation, in addition to other existing points on his record, ICBC suspended his driver’s licence for about four months.

He appealed that court decision in B.C. Supreme Court in front of Justice Ardith Walkem.

The incident was seen by a police officer, who had to swerve out of the vehicle’s way, Walkem’s ruling said.

Bakhsheshi argued he was not talking on the cellphone or texting with it. He argued that his action of picking up the phone, transferring it between hands and placing it on the dash didn’t constitute use. He said ICBC brochures only showed talking or texting as being prohibited.

Walkem wasn’t buying it.

She said in a Jan. 28 decision released on Feb. 7 that the law prohibiting the “use” of a cellphone is far more than just using it for talking or texting.

“It is a provision aimed at ensuring safety,” Walkem said.

She said Bakhsheshi’s distraction in reaching for, holding the cellphone and then transferring it to his other hand before placing it on the dash caused him to partially swerve into another lane.

“Mr. Bakhsheshi’s argument on appeal that he was not talking on, or texting with, the cellphone is not sufficient to prove that he was not using it. This is the kind of event that the prohibitions against electronic devices in the MVA are intended to curtail.”

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