Hergott: For safety sake, cell phone use in all vehicles should be banned

What (investigators found) was a direct correlation between the pilot’s cell phone use and significant altitude changes.

It’s time for my periodic rant against the B.C. government’s cell phone laws.

The trigger for my rant, this time around, is a Transportation Safety Board report into the cause of a single occupant small plane crash that occurred near the Fort St. John airport in November, 2011.

The report was released and made news this week.

The investigators found no indication of aircraft system malfunction, nor pilot physiological issues. What they did find was a direct correlation between the pilot’s cell phone use and significant altitude changes, the plane dipping and climbing significantly over the course of the flight.

The cell phone use was both text and voice.  Direct correlation was found with both uses of the cell phone, not just the text messaging.

The investigators noted:  “There have been no comprehensive studies regarding the use of cell phones as a distraction in an aviation context.  The phenomenon has, however, been extensively studied in the automotive sector.”

The investigators made the following finding about risk: “Pilots who engage in non-essential text and voice cell phone communications while conducting flight operations may be distracted from flying the aircraft, placing crew and passengers at risk.”

The report proposes a prohibition on the use of mobile/cell phone devices by pilots during flight, unless for an emergency.

The Transportation Safety Board is an independent agency, created by the federal government that identifies safety risks  it believes government and the transportation industry should address to reduce injury and loss.

Of course, it’s up to government whether or not steps are actually taken to address safety risks.

So now my rant against our political leaders in B.C.

There is no indication in the Transportation Safety Board report as to whether or not the cell phone was held against the pilot’s ear during the several cell phone conversations he had during the flight.

Of course not.  Driver distraction does not come from the minimal manual dexterity required to flex the arm and position a cell phone against the side of your head. Driver distraction comes from your attention being taken away from the task at hand.

A Vancouver Sun article that broke news of this report inaccurately reported that using a cellphone while driving is illegal in every province and territory except Nunavut.  I say that it should be illegal, but it’s certainly not illegal in B.C.

Instead of doing the right thing and banning cell phone use while driving period, our political leaders made it illegal to flex the arm and position a cell phone against the side of your head.  Blathering away on a cell phone is perfectly legal in B.C. as long as it’s hands-free.

The arm flexing prohibition didn’t do anything to improve safety, it simply caused British Columbians to go out and stimulate the cell phone industry by purchasing hands-free devices.

If anything, it increased the risk of distracted driving by impliedly endorsing the use of cell phones while driving, as long as it’s with a hands-free device. This safety contradiction absolutely kills me But nobody’s listening.

Perhaps if someone listened, it would stop killing and maiming British Columbians in a literal sense.

This column is intended to provide general information about injury claims.  It is not a substitute for retaining a lawyer for your specific case. Paul Hergott is a lawyer  at Hergott Law in West Kelowna.


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