Driving and Cell Phone Use Laws

As of January 1, 2010, the whole West Coast of America is a hands-free cell phone use while driving zone. Oregon and British Columbia made it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone just this year, for conversation or texting while driving, and Washington State did so in 2008 and California in 2009.

So, you must have Bluetooth technology for use in one ear (no 2 ear headsets) or you must use a speaker-phone. However, as talking on the phone has been equated with the same loss of concentration as driving “drunk”, I suggest you pull to the side of the road to talk, especially if it is for anything more than 30 seconds of conversation. Please use best judgment.

The Vancouver Sun reports: the ban applies to cellphones and also to: personal digital assistants (PDAs), MP3 players and other handheld devices.

But you don’t have to be totally cut off when you get behind the wheel, as there are a number of hands-free solutions to keep you legal – e.g. some tools come built-in with higher-end autos; there is technology that reads your e-mail while you drive; there are wired or wireless headsets that start as low as $30.

If you are a learner or are a new licence holder — under B.C.’s graduated licence program (GLP), meaning you have a Class 7 or Class 7L licence — you cannot use any of these tools under any circumstances. For you, there are no hands-free exceptions to the law. GLP drivers are just not allowed to use electronic devices, period.

So, what is allowed? An electronic device and actions which are:
___ a system with a hands-free telephone function; i.e. you don’t have to hold it in your hand to operate it
___ voice-activated or one touch is enough to make, accept or end a call
___ using an earpiece for one-ear only, unless you’re on a motorcycle, then a two-earpiece headset is okay
___ you must be wearing the headset before you even start to drive because digging around for it in your purse or pocket, when the phone rings, isn’t allowed
___ electronic device has to be fixed securely in the vehicle or worn securely and within easy reach
___ that it can’t obstruct your view or interfere with you driving the car
___ sending or receiving text or e-mail on any type of electronic devices while you’re driving is not allowed
___ you can listen to an iPod or other hand-held player but only if it’s securely fixed to the vehicle or you. The sound must come through the speakers of your vehicle’s sound system.

To drive in Canada, you also need to have a copy of your car insurance and to have a letter from your insurance company which confirms your account is active and paid, which you carry with you. They know what the Canadian Government requires in the letter.

You must have a current US passport.

You must have an international driver’s license. For those in America, American Automobile Association is one of the 2 approved US Government sources. At AAA, you can apply online for the International Driver’s License, but you must also carry your original driver’s license at all times.

Be prepared to wait in long lines at the border if you are traveling by car or bus, especially as traffic flow ratchets up for the Olympic Games in Vancouver, which open February 12, 2010 and are followed by the Paralympic Games.

You will need these same credentials to rent a car in Canada.

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