We live in an age where ubiquitous technology provides us all with easy access to vast amounts of information. That technology has revolutionized the world in which we live. The computer age which only a few decades ago was in its infancy, has evolved to the point where almost every one of us routinely carries some kind of device which is essentially a handheld computer. These allow us to connect to others and information which can be transmitted from almost anywhere on the globe.
As amazing as this technology is, it has nonetheless led to unintended consequences. One of the worst consequences of the use of electronic devices while driving undoubtedly, is the increase of distracted driving – and related car accidents. This has become a public safety issue which, in turn, has led to the introduction of laws to stop people from using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.
In British Columbia, road laws are defined by the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), which delegates authority to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to regulate driver behaviour. Since January 1, 2010, amendments to the MVA have prohibited the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving. Those amendments are found at Part 3.1 of the MVA, which reads as follows:
Part 3.1 — Use of Electronic Devices while Driving
214.1 In this Part:
“electronic device” means
(a) a hand-held cellular telephone or another hand-held electronic device that includes a telephone function,
(b) a hand-held electronic device that is capable of transmitting or receiving electronic mail or other text-based messages, or
(c) a prescribed class or type of electronic device;
“use”, in relation to an electronic device, means one or more of the following actions:
(a) holding the device in a position in which it may be used;
(b) operating one or more of the device’s functions;
(c) communicating orally by means of the device with another person or another device;
(d) taking another action that is set out in the regulations by means of, with or in relation to an electronic device.
Prohibition against use of electronic device while driving
214.2 (1) A person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), a person must not communicate by means of an electronic device with another person or another device by electronic mail or other text-based message.
Exceptions to prohibition — emergency personnel
214.3 Section 214.2 does not apply to the following persons who use an electronic device while carrying out their powers, duties or functions:
(a) a peace officer;
(b) a person driving or operating an ambulance as defined in the Emergency Health Services Act;
(c) fire services personnel as defined in the Fire Services Act.
Exceptions to prohibition — certain permitted activities
214.4 Section 214.2 does not apply to a person who uses an electronic device
(a) while operating a motor vehicle that is safely parked off the roadway or lawfully parked on the roadway and is not impeding traffic,
(b) to call or send a message to a police force, fire department or ambulance service about an emergency, or
(c) that is configured and equipped to allow hands-free use in a telephone function, is used in a hands-free manner and is used in accordance with the regulations, if any.
Exceptions to prohibition — by regulation
214.5 Section 214.2 does not apply to
(a) a prescribed class of persons who, while carrying out their powers, duties or functions and driving or operating a motor vehicle or a prescribed class of motor vehicle, use an electronic device or a prescribed class or type of electronic device,
(b) a person who uses an electronic device while engaged in a prescribed activity or in circumstances or under conditions set out in the regulations, or
(c) a person who uses a prescribed class or type of electronic device.
Power to make regulations
214.6 The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations as follows:
(a) prescribing classes or types of electronic devices for the purposes of paragraph (c) of the definition of “electronic device” in section 214.1;
(b) setting out actions for the purposes of paragraph (d) of the definition of “use” in section 214.1;
(c) for the purposes of section 214.4 (c), setting out the manner in which, or the extent to which, a hands-free electronic device may be used in a telephone function;
(d) for the purposes of section 214.5;
(e) regulating the installation or mounting of classes or types of electronic devices in motor vehicles;
(f) exempting or excluding, with or without conditions, classes or types of electronic devices, classes of persons or classes of vehicles or classes of persons while driving or operating a motor vehicle or class of motor vehicle from the operation of a provision of this Part.
Generally speaking, a driver must not do any of the following:
- A driver must not hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device.
- A driver must not send or receive text messages or email on any type of electronic device.
- A driver must not hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic computing device, one of the purposes of which is to process or compute data.
By simply choosing not to use a cell phone – or other electronic device – while driving, you will be compliant with Part 3.1 of the MVA and contribute to making the roads of BC safer.