Police want to seize the cellphones of drivers continually “flaunting and breaking the law,” despite legislation made about three years ago that made it illegal to use handheld devices while driving.
Victoria Chief Const. Jamie Graham, head of the traffic committee of the B.C. Chiefs of Police Association, said a motion was passed Thursday asking the provincial government to legislate changes to let police seize phones and vehicles for a day from distracted drivers — similar to drinking-driving roadside suspensions.
“That means, on the roadside, we drop your phone into a seizure bag then you can show up at the police station 24 hours later to pick it up,” he said.
The association is also considering asking Victoria to increase the current $167 penalty for using electronic devices while driving. The proposal has been referred to a meeting in June. If approved, the province would be asked to make the change.
B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond, in a statement, said the idea is not something the government is currently considering, but added she’s willing to sit down with the police chiefs.
“We’ve seen the average number of monthly distracted driving tickets increase by approximately 30% over the last year and that tells us that police are targeting these drivers and enforcing the law.”
B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Micheal Vonn called the proposal a seemingly “draconian response,” noting how the phones have become crucial to modern life. Police also needed to provide “meaningful analysis” on why violations are happening.
“The police have been alleging there has been an increase in distracted driving,” she said.
“That could merely be the fact they’re going out in (more) enforcement blitzes. You have to look at it in a broader context.”
On the consumer side, Dave Woogman, a London Drugs store manager in Vancouver, said Bluetooth devices remain a “top-five” cell phone accessory. After the law changed to make driving with a hand-held device illegal in early 2010 there was a “huge surge” in their sales.
“You can get them as inexpensive as $19, $29, or they can go up to more than $100,” he said, adding most new smartphones have “speech-to-text” capability.http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/03/07/police-pitch-24-hour-cellphone-suspensions