Electronic Device Use for Class 7 and 7L Drivers

New Driver SignsCan we all agree that driving while distracted is a bad thing? Probably. Would we also consider that this would be more important for an inexperienced driver than a practiced one? Very likely. Did you know that our laws concerning the use of electronic devices while driving actually reflect this thought? Surprise!

The holder of a class 7L (learner) or class 7 (novice) driver's licence must not use an electronic device while driving, period. No telephone calls, texting, iPods, GPS maps or adjustments, mobile radio conversations, computers or televisions. The only way for a GLP driver to use one of these legally is to be parked properly or making a call to emergency services about an emergency. This does reflect more restriction than the rules that apply to holders of a full privilege class of driver's licence.

Remember that the word "use" means holding it in your hand in a position that would allow it's use, actually operating one of the device's functions, watching the screen of an electronic device or communicating orally with it.

Oddly enough, the same thing does not apply to a class 8L (motorcycle learner) or class 8 (motorcycle novice) driver's licence holder. They must obey the same rules as the driver with a full privilege driver's licence. Perhaps the lawmakers felt that these GLP drivers would not use electronic devices because of the nature of the vehicle. If this is the case, they are not correct.

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I'll give you my take on this, based on many years of experience in driver training and evaluation employment.

When studies were done - and they were many and various, and independent of political influence - it was clearly demonstrable that electronic devices were a driver distraction.  Interactive devices in particular, anything with a screen for sure, audio connection also.  Skype bad, listening to an AM radio traffic report definitely not so much.

Some of these studies determined that collisions caused (at least in part) by driver distraction using hands free devices were as likely to occur as when using something like a hand held cellphone.  But trying to instantly force everybody to 'hang up and drive' when many were already habituated to using their vehicle as some kind of mobile office probably wasn't going to be successful.

But it was clearly evident that inexperienced drivers - those with a Learner license or within their two-year probationary Novice period - were least able to balance the mental task load of processing and prioritizing incoming information.  There's nothing new, here.  The more time you spend engaged in something, the less of your brain you're occupying with what you're doing.  When you learned to walk, though, you were pretty much on task overload figuring out the whole balance thing, and putting one foot ahead of the other.  Now, you don't even think about it (be thankful for proprioception, it's your true 6th sense).

It was also clearly evident that inexperienced drivers (see above) were disproportionately over-represented in crash statistics.  Highest cause of death amongst young males.  So how do you 'fix' that?  To many in governance, a high crash rate amongst 16 - 20 year olds would indicate that the instant solution would be to raise the driving age.  Problem is, statistics don't support this; jurisdictions that allow a younger age to obtain the Leaner license (though remaining unable to gain their full driving privilege any sooner) actually have lower crash rates amongst their same age group several years on.  Places like Alberta.  And Denmark.  Fact is, people who learn to drive when they're 30 are as much of a risk at 32 as they will be at 92, if they make it that far.  But if they get to 40 in one piece then they're probably as safe as anybody, even those who learned to drive at half their age.

Forgive me, I probably digress.

The whole thing is, the crash rate amongst inexperienced drivers cannot be reduced by raising the driving age.  But it can me reduced by restrictling the conditions under which the new driver is allowed to operate the vehicle.  So part and parcel of the whole GLP Program includes the restrictions on electronic devices.  And quite frankly, I think this is an intelligent measure on the part of ICBC, to reduce the risk to everybody, not least the new driver.

The daughter of a friend of mine, driving on her 'N' license, was stopped at a red light.  A police officer in a marked vehicle who was stopped in the adjacent lane saw her pick up her phone, and pulled her over moments later; her license was suspended for several months as a consequence.  She claimed she was just checking the time.  I'm afraid I have no sympathy for that young woman, because the fact is, there was a clock on the dashboard and she wasn't aware that she was stopped beside a cop.  Duh.  Get your cranium out of your rectum, eh?  Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh.


I'm interested by the independent governance of motorcycle riders, wasn't aware of this before.

Strictly speculation on my part, but I would guess there are a couple of reasons behnd this.  For one thing, an 'L' Class 8 motorcyclist could not take his/her practical Road Test without contravening his/her license restrictions; these require a radio connection between the rider and the Driver Examiner in the following vehicle.  (If you think this sounds goofy, well it's true; you know all those Driving School cars you see with 'L' and 'N' signs on them? Totally unnecessary if the car is properly marked with 'Student Driver' signs and they're accompanied by a Licensed Instructor.  But they have to have an 'L' on the back during their Road Test with a Driving Examiner, in order to meet their license restrictions.)

The other practical reason for allowing audio input through the helmet would be that whether it's Bluetooth interaction, or GPS navigation instruction, it's safer than having the rider looking down at a screen in the middle of the handle bars.


When it comes to banning things and actions, the flip-side is the implied permission to subject yourself to every other distraction.

What is more dangerous:

1) Cruising down the freeway in the right lane having a casual conversation with your left hand
2) Cruising down the freeway making a sandwich?

1) Cruising down the freeway keeping 10 seconds following distance and checking the GPS route
2) Cruising down the freeway keeping the little Johny from pulling little Stacey's hair out?

1) Going through town at 50km/h and switching songs on the iPhone by pressing on-screen
2) Going through town at 50km/h and flipping through the 250 CD binder looking to play one particular song?


All the examples under 1 are specifically illegal,
all the examples under 2 are arguably lawful.

Distracted driving is a failure to focus on the driving task at hand when the situation requires more attention than you have had allocated. With proper foresight and eyes up technique distracted driving would be a non-issue.

Sometimes I think that too many drivers have said that they crashed because they were on their cellphone, so that now we have such ludicrous legislation.

But how do you put in to law a basic principle of "Don't be stupid, stupid"?

... but how many collisions have been attributed to sandwich making while driving?

I mean, seriously.  Not that I'm endorsing said behaviour; a fellow I know inadvertently put his car in the ditch because he was trying to pick up his tray of natchos that had fallen on the floor.  But legislating against this is still probably pointless.

When I glance in the mirror and see someone obviously glancing at the device in their lap, or even worse interacting with it, I get nervous.  I could get hurt very easily as a consequence of their stupidity.

And yet strangely, even after 43 years behind the wheel, I've never felt endangered by someone making lunch.  Maybe I just never realized the existence of this hazard before now ...

I look for the speed the car behind me is going and whether they have the time to stop with me in-front of them.

It's definitely not good when others are not paying attention, but you don't have to put yourself "at the mercy" of others - claw back control, or at least as much as you can.

Rarely do I ever implictly notice drivers using their devices.
I see on-line users commenting about "seeing others texting" all the time.
They look left, they look right, they see people texting, they see people eating, they see people...

When I drive, I see cars. I don't allow time to look into other's windows. I only look where it is pertinent to my movement.

The only time I actually get to see people using their devices, is when I'm following them, and I can see the eyes of the driver in their rear view mirror looking down on their lap. (I got good eye-sight in-case you were worrying about me tailgating ;) I spend 90% of my eye-time while driving looking at the direction I am traveling.

Personally, I find the concept of peeking at people just to see what they are up to (or whether they are using devices) about as ethical as a concept of camping in the left lane at speed limit in the left lane - utterly impolite. And when this rubber-necking becomes a detriment to the driver's own movement that's when it also becomes unsafe.