Drivers can still use "hands-free" devices:
- Cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device using voice-activated dialling. Drivers can push the button to activate or deactivate a "hands-free" function, as long as the device is mounted or secured (for example, in a mobile phone mount, mp3 player mount, or in a cup holder).
- The screens on GPS devices may be viewed while driving, provided the device is mounted on the dashboard or secured to another place in the vehicle (for example, on a GPS windshield suction mount not blocking the driver's view, or in a GPS cup holder mount). Typically these units issue voice commands and drivers must input the required information before they start driving.
- Portable media player (e.g. iPod) plugged into vehicle's sound system
As a driver, your first responsibility is to drive safely: any unnecessary activity that distracts a driver from the task of driving should always be avoided.
The law does not apply to:
- Drivers in vehicles that are pulled off the roadway and not impeding traffic or are lawfully parked
Note: It is dangerous to stop on the shoulder of a 400-series highway and drivers are prohibited from pulling off a designated 400-series highway and parking for a reason other than an emergency. If the situation is not an emergency, drivers are advised to exit the freeway at an interchange or pull into the nearest service centre.
- 911 calls
- Pressing the button of a hand-held device to:
- activate or turn off hands-free mode
- transmit or receive voice communication on hand-mikes and portable radios ("walkie-talkies")
Note: the device must be placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle when the button is being pressed.
- Viewing display screens that are built into the vehicle
- used for collision avoidance systems
- showing information about the vehicle's status, or that provides road or weather information
- Ignition interlock devices
- Audio devices with screens that display still images (for example, an MP3 player displaying a still image of artist or name of song playing)
- Police, paramedics and firefighters, and enforcement officers using hand-held devices and viewing display screens when performing their duties
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 exemption to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed:
- Hand-held two-way radios for commercial purposes, including mobile and CB radios.
- Two-way radio use and viewing display screens for provincial offences officers and municipal by-law enforcement officers when performing their duties. (Two-way radios have a separate receiver unit that is connected to a hand-held microphone).
- Amateur radio operators, who assist emergency responders in situations such as severe storms and blackouts.
- Using mobile data terminals and logistical tracking and dispatching devices for commercial and public service vehicle drivers when performing their duties.
Review the full regulations in the Highway Traffic Act here.
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.
(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.
(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to the driver of an ambulance, fire
department vehicle or police department vehicle. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.
Exemption by regulation
(4) The Minister may make regulations exempting any class of persons or
vehicles or any device from this section and prescribing conditions and
circumstances for any such exemption. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.
Hand-held devices prohibited
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. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(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. 2009,
c. 4, s. 2.
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.
2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,
(a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department
(b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;
(c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this
(d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or
circumstances. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact
ambulance, police or fire department emergency services. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are
1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the
2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.
3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(7) The Minister may make regulations,
(a) prescribing devices for the purpose of subsections (1) and (2);
(b) prescribing persons, classes of persons, devices, activities, conditions
and circumstances for the purpose of subsection (4). 2009, c. 4, s. 2.
(8) In this section,
“motor vehicle” includes a street car, motorized snow vehicle, farm tractor, self propelled
implement of husbandry and road-building machine. 2009, c. 4,