Legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving became law Jan. 1, 2010 in the province.
Cory Haliwyz was issued a ticket on May 12, 2014, charged with using an electronic communication device while driving contrary to Section 241.1 (2) of the Traffic Safety Act. He successfully argued that what he did, however, did not constitute a violation of the Safety Act.
A Moose Jaw police officer testified to seeing Haliwyz holding a black iPhone and looking at the screen for approximately 30 to 45 seconds. Haliwyz said he had received a text from his daughter, which is why he picked up the phone from the console. Haliwyz said he was not holding the phone for 30 to 45 seconds. Instead, he testified that he picked up the phone for a brief moment to see who sent the text, and that he did not read or respond to the text. He said the other times, “he was adjusting the temperature controls in his van as he had three children in the back seat.” Haliwyz, Judge Margaret Gordon wrote, “advised if it was from his daughter, he was going to turn and pick her up at school.”
The officer looked at the phone and saw there was an incoming text message and that the officer did not see any outgoing response, Gordon noted.
The Crown argued that the purpose of the legislation is clearly to guard against and deal with distracted driving, including drivers taking their eyes off the road to answer or look at their cell phone or electronic communication device.
Haliwyz argued that merely picking up and looking at the screen of a cell phone or electronic communication device cannot be what is meant under the Traffic Safety Act.
Under the appropriate section of the Safety Act:
(a) “electronic communications equipment” means a cellular phone or other prescribed equipment;
(b) “make a phone call” means to make, answer or end a phone call, or to transmit or receive voice communication;
(d) “use” means, with respect to electronic communications equipment, to use the electronic communications equipment to make a phone call, text, talk, email, or surf or access the Internet, or for any other prescribed purpose.
(2) No driver shall use electronic communications equipment while driving a motor vehicle on a highway.
Gordon noted that in Saskatchewan, it is not an offence to hold or handle a cellular device while driving on a highway unless it is being used for one of the specific purposes cited in Section 241.1 (d).
“As we know, some people use their electronic communication devices for the time of day or as GPS devices and even with verbal commands, may glance at the device, address or map on the screen while driving. Is that use caught by this section? I don’t think so, but I don’t need to answer that question here,” Gordon wrote.
According to the judge, the definition of use in the legislation is “not so encompassing so as to prohibit looking at your electronic communication device.”
Haliwyz was found not guilty.