UPDATE: Vancouver police have since cancelled the fine. Read more here
A Richmond senior is upset after receiving a $368 distracted driving ticket for having her cellphone in the cupholder of her car.
Randi Kramer was driving along West Georgia Street in Vancouver when she stopped at a red light by the Hotel Georgia on Tuesday, her son Trevor told Black Press Media.
“She was sitting at a red light with both hands on the steering wheel when she got a tap on her passenger-side window,” Trevor said.
Randi assumed it was a panhandler, but was shocked to see a uniformed police officer.
Trevor said the officer came around to the driver’s side and asked for her licence.
“He said that it was Safe Driving Month and he was going to ticket her for having her cellphone charging and visible,” Trevor said.
Randi, who is in her 70s, told the officer she didn’t know that was against the law, and received a $368 ticket, despite not using or touching her phone.
“This was the first ticket [she’s ever gotten],” Trevor said.
Randi had been returning home after going for preventative dementia testing on the North Shore, her son said, and had been feeling positive because she’d been told “it was the best they’d ever seen.”
But the ticket “ruined” the good feeling, he said.
“She bought her car wanting one that had CarPlay, voice controls and Bluetooth,” he said, adding that his mom went out of her way to obey the law.
Trevor took to Twitter to see if the ticket was as arbitrary as he thought it was.
“Hey @IRPlawyer, what do you think of this? My mom is in her 70s, has never had a single ticket in 50+ years of driving in BC. Today, she got a $368 ticket for having her phone visible (plugged in while connected to Bluetooth for voice / SMS). She wasn’t looking at / touching it,” he tweeted at defence lawyer Kyla Lee.
Police ticket for having the phone charging. It’s ridiculous as it is not the distraction the government wishes to prohibit. Tell your mom to call me. We will help her out.— Kyla Lee (@IRPlawyer) September 30, 2019
Replied Lee: “Police ticket for having the phone charging. It’s ridiculous as it is not the distraction the government wishes to prohibit. Tell your mom to call me. We will help her out.
While Randi has since retained Lee, who believes she has a great chance of beating this ticket, Trevor worries about seniors who don’t have anyone to advocate for them.
“Think of the people who don’t have a son who knows how to go on Twitter,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t know the process to dispute [a ticket], or don’t understand the legislation.”
He hopes a ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court earlier this year could help clarify the issue for both his mom and other drivers.
In March, a judge ruled in favour of a man appealing a distracted driving ticket he got for driving with a phone wedged into the passenger seat.
Legislation states that holding the phone or “operating one or more of the device’s functions” qualifies as distracted driving.
Trevor called that “pretty vague.”
“How is a phone mount any safer than a phone sitting in a cup holder?” he asked. “Does a phone ringing in a purse count?”
When asked about the ticket, Vancouver police said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate to litigate a single traffic ticket through the media.”
In an email to Black Press Media, a police spokesperson said there was a precedent for ticketing a person for “using an electronic device even if they are not touching it.”
This would apply if a device is turned on, within reach of the driver, and causing the driver to be distracted while driving, the email said.