Kelowna driver ordered to pay distracted driving fine for holding phone behind the wheel

May 7 2018, 9:19 pm

BC drivers should be aware that just holding a cell phone can get you a distracted driving ticket. That is what one BC judge ruled in a case against a Kelowna driver who tried to argue that he should not be ticketed because it was a “force of habit” to hold his phone behind the wheel.

According to BC court documents, Samuel Austin Bainbridge was driving his white Ford Explorer in Kelowna last September when he was stopped by two police officers who noticed he had his phone in his hand.

The officers fined Bainbridge $368 for using his electronic device while driving. According to one officer, Bainbridge told him that he “wasn’t communicating with anyone” and it was a “force of habit to have a phone [in his] hands.”

In January 2018, Bainbridge disputed the ticket in court and argued he should not be fined because BC’s distracting driving law specifically states that “a person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway.”

According to Bainbridge, he was technically not using his phone. The officers who issued the ticket also acknowledged that they did not see Bainbridge talking on the phone, or a light coming from the screen of his phone.

Judge Brian Burgess disagreed with Bainbridge’s argument and in his March 18 ruling.

“There does not need to be proof of any operation of the device’s functions as the disputant submits,” he said.

“The court does not have to decide where the phone was actually located, either at the steering wheel or between the steering wheel and Mr. Bainbridge’s body. Mr. Bainbridge, by holding the phone in his right hand while driving was holding the phone in a position in which it may be used.”

Bainbridge was ordered to pay the full fine by the end of April 2018.

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