The grace period is over... drivers will now be fined for using hand held devices
Up until Jan 31, 2010, police officers were approaching drivers with warnings, as this was an attempt to educate drivers about the ban on hand held devices (a law which prohibits use of hand held electronic devices that went into effect in October 2009 in Ontario). There were 3260 warnings handed out to drivers. There were, however, "extenuation circumstances", according to Insp. Dave Ross of the OPP, where 64 charges were laid during this period.
As of Feb 1, 2010, the education period expired. Drivers being charged with this offence will now be fined $155. So, there must have been hundreds of drivers charged with this offence on Feb 1st, right? Quite the opposite, in fact, drivers have been surprisingly compliant. Sgt Tim Burrows said, "I didn't expect there to be this much compliance this fast. I literally can't believe this - there's nothing. It makes me very, very happy." On Monday, Sgt Burrows was aware of only 12 tickets laid across the city.
So, it seems that since the drivers are complying with the new law, that our streets will finally become safer. But is it only the act of dialing and holding on to a cell phone that is distracting, or is it the conversation they are engaged in that is distracting? Regardless of whether it is a hands free device, studies show that talking on a cell phone is extremely distracting for drivers. There is other distracting behavior that drivers need to be aware of as well. For example, drinking coffee, eating a sandwich, putting on make-up, brushing their hair, dealing with children in the back seat... the list goes on and on.
If this law is a step towards cracking down on drivers with these bad habits, then the safety of all drivers and pedestrians may be greatly increased. However, if this law is just going to target drivers who happened to check a quick text message while they were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, or at a red light, then public safety does not seem like the primary objective of the ban; it seems more like a "cash grab".
Time will tell if the law has decreased accidents related to distracted driving, but in the mean time, use your hands free device if you MUST answer that call, and try to break ALL of your bad habits that can potentially distract you from your goal of reaching your intended destination. Who knows what kind of ban Ontario will think of next?!?
Sukh Nagra - Traffic Ticket Solutions Law Firm