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‘Distracted dining’: B.C. justice convicts chopsticks-using motorist of driving infraction

WATCH: A B.C. judge has sided with police in a case of distracting "dining." Jennifer Palma has the details.

In today’s hectic world, it’s commonplace to see motorists eating while driving. But using chopsticks?

In Kelowna traffic court last month, a woman was found guilty of driving without due care after being stopped for eating while driving.

The incident took place on Nov. 7, 2018, while Corinne Marla Jackson was driving westbound along Highway 33.

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According to the ruling, “she had a bowl in her left hand and chopsticks in her right hand. She was actively eating using the chopsticks.”

Judicial Justice Brian Burgess gave the decision on Aug. 26.

According to the court document, there were two witnesses for the Crown, both police officers, Cst. Neid and Cst. Yakonowsky, while Jackson testified on her own behalf.

Court said at 2:22 p.m., Cst. Neid, in an elevated position along the highway, saw Jackson drive past with something in her hand.

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That item, according to Neid, was a bowl in her left hand. He said she also had chopsticks in her right hand. The bowl, said Neid, was three-quarters to the face from the steering wheel, and she was using the chop sticks to put food into her mouth.

“Cst. Neid observed that there were no hands on the steering wheel,” said the ruling. “Cst. Neid indicated that he had a five to six second observation time of these events.”

During cross examination, Neid described the action of the chop sticks as “shovelling” the food, adding that if he had seen a hand on the steering wheel, he would not have called the matter to the pick-up crew.

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Neid also estimated Jackson’s speed at 60 kilometres per hour in a 50 km/h zone.

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The officer called the infraction to the pick-up crew, with Cst. Yakonowsky stopping Jackson.

Yakonowsky told court he observed a white bowl with a pair of chopsticks on the passenger seat, and issued the violation ticket to Jackson.

The ruling said Jackson told Yakonowsky that she had one hand on the wheel, with a bowl in that hand and chopsticks in the other hand.

“Ms. Jackson’s evidence was similar to Cst. Neid’s, save and except as to what she was doing with her left hand,” Burgess said in the decision. “Ms. Jackson’s evidence was that she was not speeding, stating that she was “…perhaps no more than 10 km/h over.”

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“I pause to note here that Ms. Jackson applied a common misconception to her evidence about her speed, that being that a speed 10 km/h over the speed limit is not speeding. The law is that 1 km/h over the speed limit is speeding. Despite her evidence that she was not speeding, Ms. Jackson was speeding.”

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Jackson told court she had one hand on the wheel and that she was eating with the other hand while driving. Jackson also said she gave due care and attention to her driving.

“On cross examination, Ms. Jackson indicated that with her left hand she held the bowl with her thumb and index finger and had three fingers on the steering wheel,” states the ruling.

“She had chopsticks in her right hand and reached across with her right hand to put the food in her mouth. She would look down for a split second but was not looking down for any length of time.”

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Burgess said “regarding the difference in evidence between Cst. Neid and Ms. Jackson as to whether she had no hands or part of a hand in contact with the steering wheel, I prefer the evidence of Cst. Neid over that of Ms. Jackson.

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“The officer was in an elevated location with a view of the Jackson vehicle as it went be his location. He was clear and precise in his evidence regarding his observations of Ms. Jackson. Cst. Neid had a five to six second period of observation of Ms. Jackson as she drove to and by his location.”

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Burgess continued, “Cst. Neid was candid in his cross examination in saying that he would not have had Ms. Jackson stopped by the pickup crew if he had seen one of her hands on the steering wheel. In contrast, Ms. Jackson gave no evidence that she even knew of the presence of Cst. Neid as she drove by his location. Her evidence regarding her actions with her hands and her submissions were contradictory.”

He added, “a reasonable and prudent person ought to be aware that driving with objects in both hands and eating exposed other users of the highway to potential danger.”

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Burgess concluded that, with a bowl in her left hand and chopsticks in her right, Jackson was guilty of driving without due care and attention.

“The Crown has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and I find Ms. Jackson guilty of this offence,” said Burgess. “Given the egregious circumstances, I am not prepared to consider a reduction in the fine. Ms. Jackson has to October 31, 2019 to make payment.”