May 2010

CELL PHONES BEHIND THE WHEEL - No... but not on all roads!

The use of a hand-held cell phone while driving has been banned for the past two years. More specifically, it is prohibited to use a hand-held telephone device while operating a road vehicle.

But does the ban apply everywhere and on all types of roads?

A municipal court that had to render a decision in the matter recently ruled that it did not.

In Thetford Mines (Ville de) v. Hébert (C.M. Thetford Mines, 2010), a police officer intercepted the defendant after seeing him talking on his hand-held cellular telephone while driving in the main lane of a shopping centre parking lot. The officer therefore issued a statement of offence to the defendant for using a hand-held device while driving a vehicle.

The defendant disputed the ticket, citing that he believed that he was allowed to use the telephone while still in the parking lot.

In the end, the defendant was acquitted of the offence.

The Highway Safety Code (R.S.Q. c. C-24.2) prohibits the use of hand-held devices that include a telephone function and "governs the use of vehicles on public highways and, in specified cases, on certain private roads and lands..." (Ibid Art. 1, C.S.R.) (underlined by the author).

In fact, a shopping centre parking lot is not a public highway, as stipulated in the Highway Safety Code. In addition, there are no exceptions within the Code making the ban applicable to driving on a private road, such as a shopping centre parking lot.

However, a shopping centre parking lot is not necessarily a private road! And, in any case, it is dangerous to use a hand-held cellular device while driving.