Ontario Distracted Driving Legislation

October 21, 2009

OTTAWA – Ontario distracted driving legislation comes into effect next Monday. The new law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, or dial using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices. This includes using GPS, mp3 players (iPods), and entertainment devices with a display screen visible to the driver while he or she is driving. These devices can be used if programmed before starting to drive.

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. 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, and is comparable to driving while under the influence of alcohol. A driver is 23 times more likely to get into a collision if they are texting or typing behind the wheel. Text messaging takes driver’s eyes away from the road for 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval. This compares to driving an entire length of a football field without looking at the road while travelling 90 kilometres per/hour.

Canada Safety Council advises you to always make driving your first priority. Hands-free is not risk free. When you’re talking on a telephone, whether it’s hands-free or hands-held, the attention is to the conversation and less on the road. It’s the conversation, and the depth of the conversation, that’s distracting. Don’t let your emotions or work get in the way of your safety on the road.

Drivers will have a three-month grace period to ease their way into the new rules, where the focus will be on educating drivers. Police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010. Fines will range from $60 to $500, with no demerit points. All drivers will still be allowed to call 911 in emergencies.

Here are a few basic safety tips from Canada Safety Council:

  • Avoid unnecessary calls and always make the driving task your top priority.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel and keep your eyes on the road.
  • Learn how to operate your hands-free device without looking at it.
  • Program numbers for easy hands-free dialing.
  • Don’t get so wrapped up in conversation that you drift into the other lane. Pull off the road if safe and legal to do so; this is critical if it’s an important or heated conversation.
  • Keep conversations brief so you can concentrate on your driving.
  • Drive defensively; watch out for other motorists who are not paying attention.

For more information, please contact:
Raynald Marchand
General Manager – Programs
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 226)

Valerie Powell
Communications and Media Coordinator
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)