A warning to motorists in the province: talking on cell phones, BlackBerrys and other handheld electronic devices while driving will be a ticketable offence starting Monday.
Bill 118 – Ontario’s attempt to dissuade motorists from picking up their mobile devices to talk, dial, text, email or surf the web – officially took effect on October 26.
But the three-month “education period” is now over and those who ignore the rules could be slapped with a $155 ticket, although a judge could choose to boost the fine as high as $500 in court.
Drivers won’t receive any demerit points under the new law, but they could be handed six 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.
Cell phones must now be used with an earpiece or headset or plugged into the vehicle’s sound system and any calls must be made using voice dialing. However, pressing the button that activates and deactivates the hands-free function is allowed.
Drivers are also prohibited from using portable video games and DVD players but they can use their cell phones for 911 calls as well as GPS devices attached to the dashboard.
iPods and other portable audio players should be plugged into the sound system.
Although hands-free devices aren’t affected by the legislation, there is evidence they also pose a safety risk.
Studies show a driver using a cell phone is four times more likely to be in a crash than a driver focused on the road.
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.