Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cell Phone Ban Law

Most Ontarians know that a new legislation was passed earlier this year (April 22 2009) that bans all cell phones and hand held devices while driving in Ontario. What most people don’t know is that just because the bill has been passed, it does not make it law yet. The bill still requires royal assent and a raft of regulation completed, along with an education period to the public before it can be enforced as law. Speculations are indicating that this should take place sometime this fall and Traffic Ticket Solutions will be sure to inform the public when this happens.

While the legislation is not law yet, The Toronto Sun reports that Transportation Minister Jim Bradley stated that “it would be really nice to see that even though the bill has not been proclaimed and in effect yet, that people are taking it as that is what the law is.” The hope is that drivers can take this time to change their habits and adopt a safer driving regime before they can be legally pulled over and charged for this offence. The CNW Group reports that “Transportation Canada estimates that driver distraction is a contributing factor in about 20% of all collisions. Drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash.” The law is focused on stopping collisions that result from driver distraction, but the Toronto Star reported that Transportation Minister Jim Bradley has no intention to ban eating and drinking coffee while driving.

Once law, this legislation will ban the use of any hand held device by drivers including cell phones for talking, texting and emailing, GPS systems that are loose and not properly affixed to a dash or appropriate area in the car, MP3 players, laptops and any other electrical device used by a driver. If charged with the offence, there would be no demerit points assessed, but a conviction would be recorded on a driver’s abstract and reports are stating that fines can be as high as $500.00. There is talk that if a driver puts others at risk because of their hand held device use, that officer’s will be able to charge offenders under section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act for careless driving also. This would mean that 6 demerit points would be assessed with fines up to $1000, probable licence suspension and even possible jail time involved. For more detailed information on what is involved with a careless driving charge, visit Traffic Ticket Solutions’ Careless Driving page.

The law will not restrict any wireless communication device or any other “hands free” electronic device while driving. Some examples of acceptable hands-free devices are:

- Cell phones with earpieces, headsets and Bluetooth that operate using voice activation or plugged into a vehicles sound system.

- GPS navigation systems that are built in or properly affixed to the dashboard or another easily accessible area of the car.

- Portable media players that has been plugged into the car’s sound system

- Cell phones used in an emergency situation to call the police, fire department, and emergency medical services.

Ontario is not the first province to put a cell phone ban while driving into place. Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia all have similar laws in place with other provinces looking to follow suit in the near future. Newfoundland was the first province to adopt the ban in 2003 and news article from CTV, seven months after the law came into effect in that province, reported that “the cell phone ban…markedly reduced the number of drivers using handheld phones while on the road, police said.” But later on in the article stated that “there has been no discernible reduction in the number of accidents…”

These types of bans have been a source of controversy because as the Canada Safety Council and the Canadian Automobile Association have indicated that hand held devices are just one of many distractions that can cause an accident. The Canadian Press reported that “The Ontario Medical Association is on record saying speaking on a phone while driving puts people at ‘a significantly greater risk’ of getting in an accident, and warns that using hands-free devices doesn’t really lower that risk.”

The proof will be in the pudding for Ontario and since the complete details of the law are still being fine tuned, we will be keeping the public updated on any information regarding when the law will take effect, any updated or exemptions, and statistics on accidents before and after the law is in place.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

OPP Officer Charged with Falsely Charging Drivers with Stunt Driving

In late May 2009, 12 year veteran of the OPP, Sgt. Dennis Mahoney-Bruer, 49, was charged with 3 counts of breach of trust and one count of attempting to obstruct justice for allegedly charging three drivers with false speeding and/or stunt driving tickets. The OPP have not released any information on what the catalyst may have been to trigger the investigation or what Mahoney-Bruer’s motive was, but The Toronto Star reported that “owners and managers of Mississauga towing companies say OPP detectives have been asking them if they had ever paid Mahoney-Bruer to use their services or heard about Mahoney-Bruer allegedly receiving kickbacks from other towing companies.”

Since the charges were laid, Mahoney-Bruer was suspended with pay and was scheduled to appear in court on July 13th 2009. Information on the proceedings of this court date has yet to be released.

Since this incident first came available to the public, we at
Traffic Ticket Solutions have received numerous calls from concerned clients wondering if this could happen with one police officer, could the officer that charged them be wrong too? As in any profession, obviously human error can occur when police officers issue traffic tickets. If they didn’t, services such as ours would not exist! Clients hire us because they feel an injustice has been done and to find any mistakes an officer may have made in the process in issuing them the ticket. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the officer’s intentionally make these mistakes, but human error is unavoidable and the case of Mahoney-Bruer is definitely not the norm.

Two of the allegedly false charges laid were
Section 172.1 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) Stunt Driving / Speed Racing. Included with this charge is an immediate roadside licence suspension of 7 days and roadside vehicle seizure, leaving the accused and all occupants of the car on the side of the road to find another form of transportation. It is no secret that speed racers and stunt drivers are a danger to all drivers and harsh penalties should be enforced to stop the unnecessary deaths caused by these situations. Unfortunately these racers are most often not the ones being stopped for the new section 172 Stunt Driving law. The majority of the people we see charged with these offences are everyday people that made an inadvertent error. We aren’t saying that makes it right, however we also believe that this law could be supplying too much power to the charging officers. In Ontario, you are innocent until proven guilty, so why does this law grant the officer the ability to asses your guilt on the spot and suspend your licence and impound your car for 7 days? What if you are found innocent of the charge because of an officer’s mistake like the three wrongly accused by Mahoney-Bruer? You would still be responsible for all of the towing and impounding fees for your car, not to mention any monetary loss you may have incurred not being able to drive to work or school, etc. We have seen these losses climb into the thousands of dollar range for some of our clients. That is a pretty big loss for someone who may have not done anything wrong! This doesn’t even cover the possibility that the car does not even belong to the offending person. John Doe may have been Racing at 50 over the limit while driving his friends car that he took without permission. Now we have a situation where his friend, who had absolutely nothing to do with the incident, is being punished for Joe’s behavior. Higher fines are one matter, but having an officer being able to be the judge, jury and executioner to decide someone’s guilt at the roadside is too much power, in our opinion and the situation going on right now with Mahoney-Bruer is a perfect example of this.
The Toronto Star has also reported that “OPP spokesperson Insp. Dave Ross said police are working with the Crown to withdraw charges laid against the three drivers by Mahoney-Bruer. Ross said the force is also reviewing other charges where Mahoney-Bruer was involved as an investigator, but ‘we haven’t yet determined the scope of that review.’”

If you have an upcoming court date for a ticket laid by Sgt. Dennis Mahoney-Bruer or a past ticket that you were found guilty of, Traffic Ticket Solutions can help. Call us at 1.877.TTS.WINS for a free consultation and quote for your case.

Below are some links to news stories regarding Sgt. Dennis Mahoney-Bruer:

Jun 05, 2009 The Toronto Star
250 Cases Under Review in OPP Officer Probe

June 4, 2009 The Toronto Star
OPP Asks if Tow-truck Firms Paid Off Policeman

May 30, 2009 The Toronto Star
Officer Accused of Falsely Charging Drivers

May 29,2009 CBC News
OPP Officer Charged With Obstruction of Justice

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