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Province’s Cellphone Ban Starts Monday

A controversial ban on the use of cellphones, BlackBerrys and other handheld electronic devices while driving takes effect Monday across the province.

Ontario is banking on Bill 118 to dissuade motorists from picking up their mobile devices to talk, dial, text, email or surf the web.

Starting February 1, after a three-month “education period,” those who ignore the rules could be fined as much as $500. But police can still lay charges during the transition period by way of a summons, if warranted. In other words, drivers would find out the amount of the fine in court.

Although motorists won’t receive any demerit points under the new law, they could be handed six demerit points if they are charged with the additional offence of careless driving. The latter also carries the possibility of further fines, driver’s licence suspension and even jail time.

Drivers are also prohibited from using portable video games and DVD players but they can use their cellphones for 911 calls as well as GPS devices attached to the dashboard.

Hands-free devices aren’t affected by the legislation but are not recommended for use while driving.

Bans are already in place in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Similar legislation also exists in British Columbia. Saskatchewan is working on a bill for this fall. Manitoba will likely follow suit next year.

Studies show a driver using a cellphone is four times more likely to be in a crash than a driver focused on the road.

Countering Distracted Driving Act