When most people think of distracted driving, they think of someone using their cell phone behind the wheel. But for a Kelowna woman, it wasn’t a cell phone that police were concerned about — it was a bowl of spinach and some chopsticks.
Corinne Jackson was fined on Nov. 2, 2018, for eating with chopsticks while speeding along Highway 33, a four-lane road in British Columbia. And a judge ruled last month that she was “driving without due care and attention,” the fine for which can be up to $2,000 but is typically $368 and six demerit points, according to CBC News.
Jackson submitted to the judge that she had both hands on the wheel. But according to the evidence, Justice Brian Burgess said that “she had one hand on the wheel with three fingers of her left hand holding the wheel and her index finger and thumb holding a bowl of spinach, and she had chopsticks in her right hand.”
RCMP Const. Chris Neid testified that he saw Jackson “‘shovelling’ the food” into her mouth.
The definition of distracted driving could undergo some permutations in the near future, as new laws in places like Ontario are starting to call into question whether or not ride-share drivers, who often have to rely on GPS while driving in order to find and drop off fares, are distracted while driving.
Burgess’s ruling, however, highlights a less obvious aspect of distracted driving laws: that “a person should not be multitasking while driving.”
Jackson argued that she was able to both handle the steering wheel and bowl with one hand while using the other to manage the chopsticks. But Burgess didn’t accept that defence.
“The hand that is on the steering wheel should not also be holding some other object,” Burgess wrote in his judgment. “A reasonable and prudent person would be aware of the dangers posed to other users of the road, including other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in the circumstances.”
However, Burgess was careful to add that eating while driving isn’t considered distracted driving across the board.
“I am not finding that a person who is eating while driving is driving without due care and attention,” Burgess wrote.
Coincidentally, almost a year before Kelowna RCMP fined Jackson for driving without due care and attention, it posted a picture to Twitter of a woman eating noodles with chopsticks in an effort to bring awareness to distracted driving as part of a campaign for distracted driving month. It later had to clarify the tweet.
“Obviously the tweet depicted a very exaggerated situation,” said Cst. Melissa Wutke to KelownaNow at the time.
Jackson tried to dispute the other part of the charge — that she was speeding. She argued that she was driving “perhaps no more than 10 km/h over” the speed limit.
To that, Burgess wrote: “I pause to note here that Ms. Jackson applied a common misconception to her evidence about her speed. The law is that one km/h over the speed limit is speeding. Despite her evidence that she was not speeding, Ms. Jackson was speeding.”
She has until the end of October to pay the fine of $368.