B.C. Supreme Court rules you are distracted driving when wearing any earbuds – even if phone is dead

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A BC driver was travelling home from work in 2018 when police spotted him driving while wearing earbuds. The police pulled him over and charged him with distracted driving. Mr. Grzelak went to court, lost and eventually appealed to the Supreme Court where he lost again.

Mr. Grzelak argued in his defence that he often spent the entire day on the phone and used his earbuds. He indicated that he had his earbuds in his years after a long day of calls and had left them in to drown out the road noise. They were plugged into his iPhone which was in the centre cubby hole of his dash. His phone at this point was dead.

According to the law drivers can only wear one earbud when driving in British Columbia and Mr. Grzelak contravened that law. Mr. Grzelak argues that he was not distracted driving and the trial judge erred in their decision. He said the phone was not in his hands or lap, it was not lit up , it was not playing music, in fact it was dead.

The Supreme Court however ruled that in fact, Mr. Grzelak was ‘legally’ using the phone. The earbuds were connected to the phone making it part of the electronic device. Since they were in his ears he was holding some part of the device and that it was or could be used. The fact the phone was dead does not change the fact that it is an electronic device.

You can read the initial decision here, and the Supreme Court Decision here.

Remember that most accidents are attributed to distracted driving, and that distracted driving can carry a significant fine and points on your licence across Canada. It will impact your insurance rates as well.