Author: David S.R. Parker

Distracted driving charges and related accidents have been on the rise with the progression of technology in recent years. Most cellphones or GPS devices have some sort of “hands-free” navigation feature. These features are usually intended to allow a driver to find maps or directions without being distracted from driving safely. However, drivers may still be breaking the law when they use cellphones or navigation devices even though those devices are being used “hand-free”. Using these hands-free devices improperly may cause an accident resulting in injury to the driver using them and to others and may result in the driver being charged with distracted driving.

The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act states that “it is an offence for a person to use a hand-held cellular telephone or engage in text messaging on any communications device while operating a vehicle.” However, this law does not give a precise description of what sort of devices or services are prohibited. For example, it is unclear whether the use of iPads, GPS or other navigation devices while driving is prohibited. Earlier this year in R v. Anand, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal addressed this question in relation to hand-held, non-voice activated GPS devices. The Court found that the law did not apply to the GPS device because it said navigation devices are different from communication devices and that the law did not address navigation devices.

Even though the Court has provided some clarity to the law, it is still uncertain what the law means by the word “use”. Many people use their phones for tasks other than calling or texting. For example, they use their phones daily to send emails, look up directions, and take notes on their cell phones. Therefore, “use” of a cellphone could be interpreted as typing on a phone, dialing a number, or even using voice activation. As a result, the law in Nova Scotia has not evolved as quickly as technology. Many drivers use voice activated features on their cellphones while driving and they might incorrectly assume that using hands-free devices protects them from the law.

In 2015 in R v. Ikede, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court considered a case in which a driver was using Siri on their iPhone to navigate and who was charged with distracted driving. The Court found that, although the driver was using an electronic device, he was using his voice to control the device and was not sufficiently distracted to be caught by the legislation. While this driver was not guilty of distracted driving, the Court indirectly put drivers who use “hands free” devices on notice—i.e., if drivers are distracted even while using a hands-free device, they may be guilty of distracted driving. Further, if an accident resulted, this could have implications on a driver’s cost of insurance or on their liability for personal injury claims arising against them as a result of the accident.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision or suffered some other type of personal injury, you can contact the Accident & Personal Injury Team of lawyers at BOYNECLARKE LLP for a free consultation. Our team is one of the largest personal injury teams in Nova Scotia. We are based in Dartmouth and represent clients throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. You will not pay any fees unless we get you the compensation you deserve.