CASE LAW - R v Shelford

Tania Shelford is a company driver whose vehicle is equipped with a two way mobile radio that allows her to contact her dispatcher. She was using that radio to acknowledge the end of her shift when she was observed by an RCMP officer who stopped her and issued a traffic ticket for distracted driving. She disputed the ticket.

At trial, she testified that the two way voice radio was hard wired and attached securely to her vehicle. She had used the radio often enough that she could retrieve and hang up the microphone without having to look at it. The mic was mounted in a convienient spot within easy reach.

She produced a copy of RoadSafetyBC's document Use of Electronic Devices While Driving that summarizes approved use of the radio. This document is no longer published by RoadSafetyBC and has been replaced by a web page of instructions.

The judicial justice convicted Ms. Shelford who subsequently appealed that conviction. The matter was heard by Mr. Justice Schultes who found that the justice erred and her appeal of the conviction must be allowed.

Ms. Shelford argued that her mobile radio is not considered to be a hand microphone. Justice Shultes agreed and observed that this radio was not defined as an electronic device in section 214.1 MVA.

Of interest to amateur (ham) radio users and others who use portable (hand held) radios, these devices do fall under the definition of hand microphone and may only be used while driving if they are securely attached to the driver's person or vehicle in a position that is convenient to use. In addition, only the push and hold to talk function may be used and operation of any other control for the radio while driving is prohibited.



There's an immense amount of difference between using a two-way mobile and a cell phone.

Cops, Taxi Drivers, and Truckers (as well as Ham Radio operators) have been using these things for decades, without any evidence of distraction.

It's said that we have five senses, but you couldn't stand up, sit down, or walk without proprioception. You couldn't operate a clutch or a gear lever (or pretty much any vehicle control) and it would be impossible to close your eyes and then touch your nose with your finger.

Many users of two-way mobile radios never need to look at either the microphone or the radio unit, even to change the channel or volume. That's why they have piled up millions of miles without triggering some debate about distracted driving and collisions. It's not like these stupid modern cars with some kind of interface on the dashboard that you have to use and understand just to change the climate controls, or the radio.

I would rather be using a two-way mobile than attempt to use my bluetooth cell phone, even hands free, when I'm driving.

2 way radio use

I have to agree with CompetentDrivingBC.  Having driven a commercial vehicle with a 2-way radio many years ago (a licensed system, not a CB), I see a world of difference between that and a cell phone, even hands free.  A key difference - only one person can speak a time, and must hand the ability to speak to the other person.  I would drape the microphone cord over my knee while listening and steering or shifting gears, and when I needed to speak I could easily choose the moment to pick up and key the microphone.  A few seconds of dead air wasn't an issue with that kind of communication.  A phone conversation, even with a hands free system, takes far more mental concentration and is far more likely to be a distraction.

In our family we've also used FRS radios while travelling in multiple vehicles.  They're great for letting other drivers know that it's time to stop for gas, etc.  But this kind of use is now unlawful in most jurisdictions.  I can truly say that this kind of use created zero safety risk.

It's rather unfortunate that 2-way radios, CB radios and FRS radios got caught up in a blanket prohibition.  I can only hope that common sense will again prevail at some point.

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