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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