Police cancel senior's distracted driving ticket after online outrage
The Vancouver police have cancelled a senior's $368 distracted driving ticket after the driver complained her cellphone was merely sitting in the cup holder of her car while she was stopped at a red light.
The ticket drew plenty of attention online after Trevor Kramer, the senior's son, took to Twitter Monday to call out the police department's traffic unit, saying his mom was neither touching nor even looking at her phone at the time.
"She had both hands on her steering wheel, was looking straight ahead waiting for the traffic to move forward, when somebody tapped on her passenger-side window," Kramer said. "She initially thought it was a panhandler."
However, to his mom's surprise, it was a uniformed Vancouver police officer, who handed her a $368 violation ticket for having her cellphone out.
"He told her that the reason for the ticket was that her phone was charging and visible, which he said was not allowed."
The story attracted outrage among drivers – "My mom is in her 70s, has never had a single ticket in 50+ years of driving in B.C.," Kramer tweeted – even drawing the ire of a Vancouver criminal lawyer who offered to take up the case pro bono.
"I argued a case earlier this year in B.C. Supreme Court involving somebody who was ticketed for basically the same course of conduct involving their cellphone," said lawyer Kyla Lee, who specializes in automotive crimes.
"If they're trying to prohibit people from charging their phones or having phones loose in the vehicle, they need to make that clear to the public so the public can adjust their behaviour accordingly," she said.
"What Ms. Kramer was doing in this case does not pose any risk of causing an accident, so it's unnecessary."
The Vancouver Police Department finally cancelled the ticket on Wednesday and apologized, Kramer said.
"A few minutes ago my mom called me and said she had a call from a sergeant… who apparently apologized and let her know the ticket has been voided and it won't be forwarded to ICBC," Kramer said Wednesday afternoon.
The Victoria Police Department weighed in on the confusion over where a cellphone can be safely – and legally – stowed inside a vehicle while the vehicle is in use.
"The distracted driving law does stipulate that if you basically interact with that electronic device in one or more ways, that would be a violation," said Victoria police traffic section Const. Stephen Pannekoek. "Had it just been down and she had not interacted, I, as an officer, would not write the ticket."
Pannekoek said the illegal use of cellphones behind the wheel in Victoria remains "prolific."
"Keep the eyes on the road," he said. "You just never know when there might be either another distracted driver out there or someone who's just not paying attention."
Pannekoek said distracted driving remains the main killer on local roads and highways, followed by impaired driving, excessive speed and failing to yield.
Distracted driving is a factor in an average of 77 deaths on B.C. roads every year.