Cellphone restrictions loom

December 22, 2009

Looks like we are finally getting somewhere.

 
CBC News

B.C. drivers have until Dec. 31 to get hands-free gear if they want to use a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle.B.C. drivers have until Dec. 31 to get hands-free gear if they want to use a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle. (CBC)

The B.C. government is reminding drivers that on New Year’s Day it will become illegal to drive in the province while using a hand-held cellphone or other electronic device.

Under the changes to the Motor Vehicle Act effective Jan. 1, most drivers will be allowed to use hands-free units with earpieces or speaker-phone functions. But talking, texting or gaming on a hand-held device will no longer be allowed while operating a vehicle on B.C. roads.

Drivers classified as learners or novices under the province’s graduated licence system will not be permitted to use any kind of cellphone while behind the wheel.

"We have all seen the tragedy, the carnage and the loss caused by distracted driving," Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu told a news conference Monday. "The new legislation will mean fewer distracted drivers on the road."

Hands off?

An official with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia said there is evidence that even chatting on hands-free devices constitutes a measurable distraction.

"The research has shown that whether you are operating a hand-held or hand-free unit, the risk is there," said ICBC road safety manager Sonny Senghera.

Authorities have said they may clamp down further. "If in fact … there is still a significant problem with distracted driving, we will go with further restrictions," said Solicitor General Kash Heed. That could include outlawing even hands-free devices while driving, Heed said.

Drivers caught by police using hand-held phones will be given warnings through January. As of Feb. 1, officers will have the option of issuing $167 tickets.

(It’s not criminalizing the act, but at least it’s something)

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