Ontario Cellphone Ban Begins October 26, 2009

Starting on October 26, 2009, it will be illegal for Ontario drivers to talk, text, type, dial or use email using hand-held cellphones or other hand-held communication or entertainment devices.   Bill 118, Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2009, will amend Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act to include the following provision:

Wireless communication devices
78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

Entertainment devices
(2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.

Hands-free mode allowed
(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode.

Exceptions
(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,

(a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle;

(b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;

(c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this subsection; or

(d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or circumstances.

Same
(5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact ambulance, police or fire department emergency services.

Same
(6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are met:

1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the roadway.
2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.
3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic.

(8) In this section,

“motor vehicle” includes a street car, motorized snow vehicle, farm tractor, self-propelled implement of husbandry and road-building machine.

The Following a three-month period beginning Oct. 26, where the focus will be on educating drivers, police will start issuing tickets on Feb. 1, 2010, according to the Ontario government. Fines will range from  $60 – $500 for talking or texting when you should be paying attention to the road. Hands-free devices are still permitted, however, so  long as a driver uses a voice-activated system for dialing the number.

Sgt. Tim Burrows of the OPP says that if a driver is caught using a hand-held device, he or she may also be charged with careless driving — costing up to $1000, six demerit points and a driver’s license suspension. It will be up to the discretion of the police officer whether to charge a driver with distraction or careless driving – or the worst case scenario: both.

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4 Responses

  1. Subsection (3) states, “…a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode.”

    Does this mean we can use the speaker on our phone?

    Does the phone have to be mounted somewhere?

    If it is mounted, does it have to be placed such that it is not in the drivers’ direct line of sight?

    • Good questions! The wording of the statute seems to be targeting the “holding” of these devices, not talking while driving. So, it seems to me that it would not be a contravention of the statute to use a speakerphone function or some other hands-free device such as a bluetooth, although dialing by hand would be prohibited. On my quick review of the HTA, I didn’t see any requirement that the device be mounted (and I may be wrong). However, it does appear that a screen should not be visible to the driver – I am getting this from the proposed s. 78(1):

      Display screen visible to driver prohibited

      78. (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.

      Exceptions

      (2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the display screen of,

      (a) a global positioning system navigation device while being used to provide navigation information;

      (b) a hand-held wireless communication device or a device that is prescribed for the purpose of subsection 78.1 (1);

      (c) a logistical transportation tracking system device used for commercial purposes to track vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of packages or other goods;

      (d) a collision avoidance system device that has no other function than to deliver a collision avoidance system; or

      (e) an instrument, gauge or system that is used to provide information to the driver regarding the status of various systems of the motor vehicle. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.

  2. Nice level of information here. There is so much data around about this subject that sometimes you cannot see the wood for the trees but you have pitched this at just the right level so that the lay person can understand – thank you!

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