By Mike Morris Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety
By Mike Morris
Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety

With the holidays in the rear-view mirror, most of us have bills to pay and don’t need another.

That’s why, as a 32-year-cop-turned-solicitor general, I’d like to share some information that may help you to save yourself at least $543 in penalties – not to mention a trip to a body shop, the hospital or worse.

Most of what follows is based on failed attempts by actual drivers to talk police officers out of ticketing them for distracted driving, which is now cited as a factor in about one-third of fatal crashes on B.C. roads. (In the spirit of a public service announcement, I’ve taken a question-and-answer approach.)

Q: If I’m stopped at a red light, can I text or use a hand-held device?

A: No. For one thing, intersections are busy places that require your full attention when you’re at the wheel. For another, awareness at all times means you’re better prepared to react and take evasive action – for example, if an emergency vehicle or a distracted driver is coming up behind you! (You’d be surprised how often distracted driving leads to rear-end crashes and related injuries.)

Q: Many people have a screen in their dashboard that provides directions as they drive. My car doesn’t, so can I hold my smartphone instead?

A: No. If you do, and you crash into somebody, they may feel inclined to tell you where to go and how to get there. (Technically, though, your phone can provide you with directions if it’s secured to the dashboard and you’re not actively using it while driving.)

Q: What if my Bluetooth is dead?

A: Better it than you. It’s still no excuse to dial or text at the wheel.

Q: What if it’s my spouse or boss calling?

A: Pull over and park, if it’s safe to do so. Your vehicle should be stationary and safely out of the flow of traffic if you’re going to text or dial.

Q: If the transmitter is turned off on my smartphone – like in “airplane mode” – it technically can’t transmit, so I’m legal to use my device while driving, right?

A: No. Technically.

Q: The clock in my dashboard no longer works. Is it okay pull out my smartphone and just check the time quickly while I’m driving?

A: No. Doing so takes your eyes off the road and increases your likelihood of crashing. Admittedly, a crash may give you an excuse to buy a newer vehicle with a working clock. But it won’t get you out of a ticket.

Q: If I only send a quick emoji, does that count as texting?

A: Yes. 🙂