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Seize phones to stop distracted drivers: police chief

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Should police have the right to seize your cell phone if you’re not using it hands free while driving?

The head of BC Police Chiefs is considering the idea after more than 5,500 tickets were handed out to distracted drivers last month.

With so many people still not getting the message, Jamie Graham is suggesting tougher laws like possibly confiscating electronic devices.

But will it go over well with drivers?

“I think that’s crossing the line. I think increasing the penalty for repeat offenders would be a good idea. You know, maybe if they’ve done it three or four times then taking it away, but definitely not after once or twice.  I mean everybody makes mistakes,” says Graham, who News1130 spoke with on Broadway.

Allysa thinks it would be a wasteful exercise. “If someone’s going to talk on their cell phone, I think they’re going to do it no matter what the consequences are.”

But others are strongly in favour of the idea, saying it could be a way to keep people safe.

“They should take it away because if they do then people will learn that they can’t drive while on the phone,” adds Sonia.

“I think the stakes are really high when people are driving distracted… all the accidents.  There are a lot of pedestrians out there that drivers aren’t always paying attention to,” argues Rex.

Police say they will continue cracking down on distracted drivers in the coming months.

Would it work and are police within their rights to seize your phone?

News1130 legal analyst Michael Shapray argues the most logical connection is the seizure of the vehicle, since distracted driving is a Motor Vehicle Act offence.

“If someone is eating a sandwich or playing with their stereo and they’re driving carelessly, I don’t think it’s the sandwich or the CD in the car that gets seized; it’d be the car itself,” he reasons.

But he adds there is certainly some precendent for the concept.

“We know that the newer laws on excessive speeding permit the police to impound cars for seven days and when people are caught under the new [laws] for impaired driving, there is a 30-day impoundment of their vehicle.”