Nova Scotia’s Distracted Driving Law Not Clear on “Use”
Provinces across Canada continue to struggle with the interpretations of their distracted driving laws. Nova Scotia’s distracted driving laws were challenged in the Supreme Court and in this particular case, the distracted driving law lost.
Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court recently sided with a motorist who received a ticket for using his Siri feature on his smartphone to ask for directions. Canada’s high court ruled that employing the voice activated technology on a smartphone was not considered to be “use” of the smartphone as presently defined in Nova Scotia’s distracted driving legislation.
The court stated that the Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act was behind the times and simple, leaving the law for interpretation. In his ruling, Justice Jamie Campbell wrote:
” ‘Use’ does not encompass all interactions with hand-held devices that have cellular telephone functionality. When the driver, without looking at the screen of the device, engaged a voice-activated navigational system related directly to the safe operation of the vehicle, through a hand-held electronic communication device, he was not ‘using a cellular telephone.”
Nova Scotia’s Distracted Driving Law Doesn’t Address Advances in Technology
The motorist, in this case, was charged with using a handheld smartphone on the highway. The Supreme Court judge, however, noted that the driver could not have been looking at his phone because he was interacting with it through voice activation.
Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to implement distracted driving laws but in its drafting, did not clearly define the term “use” in its legislation and as a result, the law has been left to interpretation as evidenced by Justice Campbell. The judge also suggested that motorists who used FaceTime or Skype on a tablet device would not be subject to penalty under the existing Nova Scotia law. The Justice confirmed that despite Nova Scotia’s early adoption of distracted driving legislation, the laws did not take into consideration the evolution of technology.
Regardless of the law, drivers should be aware of the distractions they face while behind the wheel. May studies have indicated that voice-activated technology can be just as dangerous as talking on a cellphone. For Young Drivers of Canada, any activity that takes away from the task of driving is considered to be a distraction. To this end, Young Drivers suggests that drivers put away their technology temptations inclusive of cellphones and tablets. All calls, messages, and texts will still be there when you arrive at your destination!