Sunday, January 31, 2010

Distracted Driving Legislation

I have been getting asked what exactly the new legislation banning distracted driving really means.

In a type, no text, no email. No watching video screens, (TVs, iPods, DVDs, computer screens, etc.)

You can use GPS, but you can't plan or adjust routes while in motion.

The navigation and system operations screens of your vehicle are not included in the screens you can't look at.

You can talk on the phone, as long as you are using a wired headset or wireless device.

Get caught doing any of these things and the fine the officer will hand you is $155.00 ($125 fine, $25 victim surcharge, $5 court costs).

Here is the breakdown of quick facts from the Ministry of Transportation.

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

Three-year exemptions:

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.

Here is the actual legislation from the Highway Traffic Act.

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.

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. 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

subsection; or

(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,

s. 2.


  1. What about CB's that trucker's use? CB's on private vehicles (car's & motorcycles)

  2. Hey Tim...I understand the above, but am still confused as to WHAT is trying to be prevented...people being distracted by talking/interacting on phones/devices, OR people being distracted by physically holding their phones/devices.

    Also, I use a handheld radio receiver as part of my work, which sits on the passenger seat most of the time and I occasionaly hit a 'hold' button. It's built into the stereo system, so volume is controled in the steering wheel. Will I get in trouble for using this thing?

  3. Going with the line in the MTO's quick facts, where it talks about the one touch operation, I would believe that you are ok, although you might want to mount the control somewhere.

    As far as what the legislation is trying to combat...I believe the act of actually holding a device is all that is is addressing.

    It is a good start but could have gone further by banning phone use altogether.

  4. Can you clarify a tweet you sent: "It is NOT legal to use ... at red lights ..."?

    Unless I'm stupid, the regulation says you can use devices if the vehicle is not in motion and not impeding traffic. I can understand if you're using the device and not paying attention to the lights, but a quick check seems fair to me.


  5. Here is the clarification regarding the Tweet that I sent out earlier today which said:
    "It is NOT legal to use phones, pda's, etc while at red lights. Here is exact wording. HTA sec 78.1"

    You have to look at the Highway Traffic Act, Section 78.1(6) for the legal wording.

    (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.

    Because all three of the above must be met, using a device at a red light is against the law. At a red light you are not off the roadway or lawfully parked so, you have missed one of the three.

    Anonymous, you aren't's just a really weird section that seems to have those three parts in reverse order.

  6. And then there was scientific data proving that this is just another cash grab by our governments, and something to keep more cops working and on payroll:

    "Hand-held cellphone bans not curbing crashes"

    I would like to see someone with any common sense dispute the scientific data quoted above and prove me wrong.

  7. I always enjoy reading words of wisdom by the vast number of people named Anonymous...
    The scientific data has supported what safety experts have been screaming loud and clear. IT ISN'T THE DEVICE, IT'S THE DISTRACTION!! (The article you have linked says that as well.)
    I assume that you are really against the scientific data that shows how much more likely you are to crash when distracted than you are when you are a responsible driver concentrating at being safe.
    Judging by the cash grab and payroll comments you probably don't want the common sense dispute.

  8. Once again, I feel compelled to remind some "Anonymous" posters about the article found at:

    End the end, road safety comes down to each driver. We either choose to drive safely or not. Our politicians can look proactive by enacting restrictive laws but in the can still choose to ignore the law.

    The death penalty found in some US States doesn't stop murders. Anti-cell phone laws won't stop deaths here either.

    Safer roads start (and end) with safer drivers. What will you drive safe or distracted and dangerous?