Yukon judge rules phone wedged between ear and shoulder is 'hands-free'

A Yukon Territory Judge says the lack of detail in regulations means going hands-free while driving can include lodging a cellphone between the shoulder and the ear.

Judge Don Luther says lack of detail in regulations may be an oversight by government

Whitehorse RCMP pull over a driver during a crackdown last year on hand-held cellphone use while driving. A Yukon judge has ruled that using a cellphone lodged between a shoulder and an ear can be considered hands-free, and is not illegal. (CBC)

A Marsh Lake, Yukon, man has found a legal loophole that could make enforcing the territory's ban on driving while using a cellphone more difficult.

Yukon Judge Don Luther says it was not illegal for Ian Pumphrey to be driving with his phone lodged between his shoulder and his ear. 

Luther says it may have been an oversight on the territorial government's part when it passed the law governing the use of electronic devices while driving.

He says the Yukon cabinet would be well advised to clarify the law through regulations.

The judge says Ian Pumphrey was given the ticket by an RCMP officer on Aug. 28 when he was observed to be driving with his phone on his shoulder.

He says Pumphrey had received a phone call several minutes earlier, pulled over, put his phone on speaker, wedged it between his shoulder and ear, and then continued driving. The judge says there was no indication it led to Pumphrey driving in a distracted manner.

Luther notes the legislation that allows hands-free cellphone use while driving does not put any restrictions on what hands-free means. He says while the intent of the law is clear, it's not up to the courts to fill in gaps that could easily be filled by government regulations.

Luther says other jurisdictions, including B.C. and Ontario, had the foresight to specify exactly what hands-free use means.

Ian Pumphrey says he challenged the ticket because he believed he was not guilty. (CBC)

Pumphrey says he challenged the ticket because he believed at the time, and still does, that he had not broken the law.

"It's unfortunate, I try to be a law-abiding citizen, and you know the way the law reads you may use a cellular device in hands-free mode, and I mean I was clearly doing that when the officer pulled me over."

He says he doesn't want people to take this decision and start driving in a dangerous manner.

That's also the sentiment of Luther, who says citizens should not use this as an excuse to flout the law.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?