Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Information on Ontario's New Distracted Driving

Ontario’s ban on hand-held devices while driving will took effect October 26, 2009.

The new law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or e-mail using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. The use of hands-free devices will still be permitted.

Following a three-month period that began October 26, where the focus will be on educating drivers, police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010. Police will still have the ability to issue charges that are relevant to exhibited driving behaviours that put the public at risk.

Studies show that a driver using a cell phone is four times more likely to be in a crash than a driver focused on the road. Other studies show that dialing and texting carries the highest degree of risk of all cell phone-related activities.

Police, paramedics and firefighters will continue to be allowed to use hand-held devices when performing their duties. All drivers may use hand-held devices to call 9-1-1.

Under Ontario’s new law, fines of up to $500 can be levied against distracted drivers who text, type, email, dial, or chat using a prohibited hand-held device.

Ontario joins more than 50 countries worldwide and a growing number of North American jurisdictions that have similar distracted driving legislation including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, California and New York.

Teens and young people under 35 are the most frequent users of cell phones while driving.
For more information, please visit

To help reduce the temptation of distraction by hand-held devices, it is recommended that you should turn off notification alerts beofre driving. It is natural that when a notification is received, people will look at their device. This in itself is a dangerous act and needs to be avoided.

The new law applies only to hand-held wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices. This means drivers must only use wireless devices that can be used in a "hands-free" manner:
- a cell phone with an earpiece or headset using voice dialling, or plugged into the vehicle's sound system
- a global positioning system (GPS) device that is properly secured to the dashboard or another accessible place in the vehicle
- a portable audio player that has been plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.

Some wireless devices require that users push a button to activate and/or deactivate the device's "hands-free" function. This activity is permitted under the law.

All drivers
Drivers will not be permitted to use hand-held communication and entertainment devices when driving, with the following exceptions:
Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
When the driver has safely pulled off the roadway and is stationary or is lawfully parked.
Other devices not included in the ban:
Viewing a display screen used for collision avoidance systems
Viewing a display screen of an instrument, gauge or system that provides information to the driver about the status of systems in the motor vehicle.

Emergency response personnel
Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel will be permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices and view display screens in the normal performance of their duties.
The use of hand-held radios by amateur radio operators (who provide assistance, especially in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts) will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.

Commercial drivers
A small percentage of drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school buses, taxis, couriers) and public service workers (e.g., transit and highway maintenance workers) rely on the use of certain types of wireless devices and display screen technologies in the performance of day-to-day operations.

To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario is granting a three-year phase-out period for the commercial use of two-way radios, including mobile and CB radios, to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed.

The new law will not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices. They will be exempt for commercial and public service vehicle drivers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.

Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may be used in a hands-free mode. This would mean the driver can use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.

Sample Driver Scenarios
The following four examples show how drivers can make a few simple changes to their everyday routine in order to safely comply with the new law. In all situations, drivers are reminded that driving safely is priority one.

Mark, studentAs a university student, Mark is always on the road: traveling from home to school and hooking up with friends after class. Mark frequently uses his time behind the wheel to send text messages to friends and family.

Under Ontario’s new law, Mark will no longer be allowed to type phone numbers or text messages into his hand-held device. If he needs to talk with friends, he could use an earpiece to talk with his friends in a hands-free manner. While Mark won’t be able to dial his friends’ numbers using his fingers, he may press a button on the base of the device to activate the “hands-free mode”, and then use the voice dialing function to place calls.

Mark can only send text messages if he is safely pulled off the road and is stationary or is lawfully parked.

Debra, marketing managerWhenever Debra’s on the road, she’s on her smart phone: making the most of her long commute to work by responding to important emails as she drives.

Under Ontario’s new law, Debra won’t be able to send emails unless she does so in a hands-free manner. Reading emails from her smart phone’s display screen will also be prohibited. If she needs to send and receive emails, she can do so in a ‘hands-free mode’ that will allow her to dictate and send emails by voice, and have the emails she receives read back to her by the device.

Faisal, weekend travellerFaisal never leaves home without his hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) device. Every weekend, Faisal plots his travel destinations on the device before he leaves home, but often picks up the device to make adjustments as he drives.
He will no longer be permitted to make adjustments on the GPS device while driving, under Ontario’s new law. He can only continue to use his GPS device while driving if he attaches it securely to his dashboard to verify his location. To drive as safely as possible, Faisal should use the device’s voice command function to minimize the need to look at the GPS display screen.

Jackie, music-loverJackie always listens to her MP3 player in the car, and frequently picks up the device to find her favorite driving songs.

Under Ontario’s new law, Jackie can no longer use the MP3 player with her hands. However, Jackie could use the device if it is plugged into her car’s sound system. To use the device in a hands-free manner, Jackie should select her play list before she leaves home. This way, she will be able to push a single button to activate the device while staying focused on the road.

Thanks to for their assistance with this article.


  1. Hands-Free Law Gives False Sense of Security

    So are we safer with the new law? Dream on.

    Yes, this covers a wide range of devices and their use but does that really absolve us from in-car distractions? Not even close, especially when drivers are now being encouraged to use hands-free kits for their phones so that they can still carry on conversations. Wait a minute...shouldn't the point of this law also address the whole concept of talking on a phone?

  2. I can't help to wonder how much safer will Ontario roads will really be? It seems to me that although this law will save face with many concerned voters about the use of cell phones while driving, it may only be another knee-jerk reaction by the government and serve as a handy cash grab at the same time.

    Now, before everyone starts swamping me with emails saying "of course this is a good law", it's important to note that Ontario will be the only province to not be applying a point penalty against offenders' licenses. Additionally, fines will also be the highest in the country. When Quebec enacted a similar law, the fine was set at $450 and came with a point penalty against the offender's license. This means that if a person incurs enough penalties (for whatever reason), they would be considered a proven danger on the road and have their license revoke for a period of time. With the way the Ontario law is written, it will have no impact on those who pose a history of dangerous driving practices. Quebec also issued over 4.5million dollars in fines in a 10 month period...did Ontario just find another economic bailout?

    Let's take the economic benefits to the government out of the equation and consider the actual cause and effect that everyone is looking for with laws like this one. There is no doubt that talking on cell phones is dangerous. Not only is this a perceived danger in the eyes of most people but it's also been statistically proven to be truth. Many studies have been done, especially in Europe, showing that talking on a cell phone reduces a driver's judgment, sense of awareness and reaction times. Real-world testing has shown that talking on a phone while driving actually impairs a driver's judgment much more than having a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, which is considered legally impaired.

    Unfortunately, it totally misses the mark in that regard. What's being ignored is that those same UK studies that many people are referring too clearly indicate that using a hands-free kit vs. not using one, makes no improvement to a drivers judgment, reflexes or situational awareness. They are still as mentally impaired as being legally drunk. Just because you are freeing up a drivers' hands, doesn't mean you are freeing their mind.

    Let's be honest though. Offenders may change their habits for a while but will eventually offend again. Of course anyone who can afford a cell phone, can also afford a simple hands-free earphone kit but this still doesn't address the bigger distractions...period.

    What about taking a different approach? What about educating drivers about the dangers of in-car distractions of any kind? Let’s teach drivers to realize that the most important thing while driving a car should be...driving the car. Of course education programs like that cost a lot of money and don't make any. Passing laws like this one does make money and provides a false sense of security in that our roads will be safer as a result.

    We can't ban every in-car distraction and only the most ignorant will believe that this law will make our roads significantly safer.

    In the end, it really comes down to each of us to make a choice. Either you choose to drive safe and avoid in-car distractions or you choose not too and risk a collision.

    Safer roads start with safer drivers, so attention and drive safe.

  3. Wow, Thanks to The Lonely Rider , for a great point of view comment regarding this issue. I totally agree with what he is saying. Legislation or not, the distraction is the issue, not how we conveniently try to get around it. Couldn't say it better than he did;

    "In the end, it really comes down to each of us to make a choice. Either you choose to drive safe and avoid in-car distractions or you choose not too and risk a collision.

    Safer roads start with safer drivers, so attention and drive safe."

  4. 80% percent of all rear end collisions (the most frequent vehicle accident) are caused by driver inattention, following too closely, external distraction (talking on cell phones, shaving, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio or CD player, kids, texting, etc.) and poor judgment. There is no way to prevent a rear end collision so I got one of these

  5. Thanks for the post Anonymous.
    Although it may seem there is no way to prevent rear end collisions, there are a few ways to better position you to avoid being the victim of an inattentive driver.
    1.) Leave a space cushion between your vehicle and the one in front to use if you need to move up and or manoeuvre around that vehicle.
    2.) Keep an eye in your mirror so that you can recognize those drivers coming up behind you.
    3.) Use you hazards, tap your brakes to change the lighting to raise the attention of those behind you.
    4.) Recognize distracted drivers as you drive and keep them in front of you or beside you.
    Hope that helps you controls what you can control and pray that the other drivers control themselves.
    Thanks again.