B.C. judge rules listening to a podcast is not distracted driving | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. judge rules listening to a podcast is not distracted driving

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
January 14, 2021 - 7:00 AM

A B.C. man who was convicted for playing a podcast on his cell phone through his truck's Bluetooth speakers has had his conviction overturned after a judge ruled his actions could not be classed as using an electronic device, despite the fact it wasn't affixed to the vehicle.

In the Jan. 6 decision, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Peter Voith ruled that "passively listening to an audio broadcast that is initiated through a cell phone before a driver enters their vehicle" was not a prohibited "use" under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Judge Voith's ruling stripped Ryan Michael Bleau of his February 2020 conviction for using an electronic device while driving.

Much of the decision is given over to the definition of the words "use" and "operating" in the Motor Vehicle Act. Both words appear to be sticking points in other distracted driving cases.

The justice's ruling also adds to a list of distracted driving tickets to get tossed out of court after drivers appealed – often on the grounds that they were not touching their phones.

Not all drivers were so lucky though. Vancouver resident Patrick Tannhauser had his case flip-flop through the courts until the B.C. Court of Appeal deciding using an app that disabled his phone wouldn't get him off his distracted driving ticket.

Like many other cases, Bleau's situation involved him placing his cell phone in a cup holder in the centre console.

The decision says Bleau was driving to work and playing a podcast from his phone wirelessly through the truck stereo.

"(Bleau) did not touch or otherwise interact with his phone at any point while driving," reads the decision.

When he drove into the work parking lot an RCMP police officer pulled him over. The officer said he'd seen his right hand holding his phone to his ear as he was driving.

In the original trial, Bleau contested this and filed phone bills and dashcam footage showing that he'd not taken a phone call.

While the original judge accepted this, he did however find that playing a podcast from his phone without it being "firmly affixed to the vehicle" was a "technical violation" of the Motor Vehicle Act.

"Specifically, the question is whether the appellant was 'using' his 'electronic device' when he listened to a podcast that was transmitted from his cellphone through the sound system in his vehicle," Justice Voith said in the decision.

The Justice uses The Concise Oxford English Dictionary for reference and takes the time to analyze how the word "operating" is used as an intransitive verb.

"It is... helpful to contrast the transitive and intransitive ordinary dictionary definitions of 'operate' to assist in ascertaining the meaning of 'operating,'" reads the decision.

After a lengthy analysis of the definition and usage of the words and their usage as different types of verbs, the Justice came to a decision.

"(Bleau) did not engage in a prohibited form of 'use' under the (Motor Vehicle) Act," Justice Voith said. "The fact that his phone, through which a podcast was playing, was not secured in his vehicle or on his person is not a form of 'use' or a prohibited activity under the Act."


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