Starting on New Year’s Day (January 1), British Columbians won’t be allowed to talk or text on a handheld device while driving.
The provincial ban applies to cellphones, personal digital assistants, portable game consoles, and other handheld electronic devices, but doesn’t prohibit the use of hands-free devices.
That’s despite the B.C. government's own discussion paper showing that research has found “no difference between the cognitive diversion associated with hands-free and hand-held cell phone use”.
Released in June as part of the government's consultation on distracted driving, the paper from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Addressing the Problem of Distracted Driving and its Impacts to Road Safety, states:
Legislation that bans only hand-held cell conversations conflicts with the research that has consistently found no difference in the degree of distraction between hand-held and hands-free cell conversations. As a result, these laws may not provide the expected benefits and may even generate harmful indirect impacts such as a false sense of security for those who talk on hands-free devices while driving.
The discussion paper also refers to a 2004 University of Calgary-led research analysis that compared the impact of handheld cellphones and hands-free models. As the paper summarizes:
The UofC report revealed there is little or no public safety benefit to hands-free cell phone use. While some voice recognition systems may help to mitigate the distraction associated with actual dialling, once the conversation has begun there is no difference between a hands-free cell conversation and a hand-held cell conversation.
Unless they are in the graduated licensing program, drivers can use hands-free cellphones that require just one touch to make a call.
Drivers will still be permitted to use handheld devices while legally parked.
After February 1, violators of the ban will face a $167 fine.
Drivers caught texting or e-mailing may also be assigned three penalty points.
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