A judge in Victoria has sided with the defendant, finding that having a phone charging in the vehicle is not enough to constitute distracted driving.
On December 28th, 2018 Meghan Wylie was driving a Volkswagen on Tillicum Road in Esquimalt when she came to a stop at a red light.
Meanwhile on the same street, near the south-east corner of the intersection with Craigflower Road, Cst. Christians of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit had positioned himself to watch for drivers using an electronic device or occupants not wearing a seatbelt.
Cst. Christians testified that Wylie’s vehicle had stopped a couple of metres from his, and that he noticed her glancing down a few times thus raising suspicions that the driver might be doing something with an electronic device.
The officer went up to the driver and saw the phone charging on the driver’s lap. The screen was not illuminated and she was not touching the phone with her hands. Cst. Christians went on to issue her a driving violation ticket.
Wylie herself testified that had plugged her cell phone into the charging outlet in her vehicle before she left on her journey a few minutes before, as the battery was low.
She also stated that the phone was plugged in for the duration of her journey and that she had placed it beside her on the driver’s seat, next to her right thigh.
At a court hearing, Justice HW Gordon acquitted Wylie of the charge, ruling that she was neither holding the device nor operating one of the phone’s functions and therefore was not breaking the law under the Motor Vehicle Act.
“I find it difficult to accept that for any device (e.g. radio, TV) that relies on energy to operate, plugging it in to an energy source is, on its ordinary meaning, operating one of its functions,” writes Justice Gordon.
“Resting a device on the lap simply as a resting place, as opposed to the ability to grasp it is not a meaning of hold in its grammatical and ordinary sense.”