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New driving law hits phones, iPods, visible screens

By: staff

Date: Thursday, 30. October 2008

A driver who is caught changing tunes on an iPod or changing a setting on a navigation system while driving could be hit with a $500 fine under new legislation introduced in Ontario, Canada, yesterday.

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty was a holdout until recently, but now the new legislation targets highly distracting activities such as texting, emailing and using handheld electronic devices of any kind that take a driver's attention off the road.

The Government's Bill 118 passed second reading in the house yesterday. It amends the province's Highway Traffic Act to prohibit use of electronic devices that would distract the driver but makes provisions to allow use of hands-free cell phones and navigation.

Article 78 (1) states that any display screen visible to the driver is prohibited:

78. (1) No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle that is equipped with, carries, contains or has attached to it a television, computer or other device with a display screen if the display screen is visible to the driver.

However, there are exceptions. For example the above does not apply to :

(a) a global positioning system navigation device that has no other function than to deliver a global positioning system for navigation;

(b) a logistical transportation tracking system device used for commercial purposes to track vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of packages or other goods;

(c) a collision avoidance system device that has no other function than to deliver a collision avoidance system; or

(d) instrument display screens that are used to provide information to the driver regarding the status of various systems of the motor vehicle .

Other exemptions are for firefighters and other emergency workers. In addition, the minister reserves the right to make further exemptions for any class of persons or vehicles or any device from this section.

Handheld devices

The new legislation also prohibits hand held 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.

And it also includes entertainment devices such as iPods other music players:

(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.

However, the new act, which comes into effect when it receives royal assent, specifically exempts devices that are in "hands-free mode."

(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections if the person is not holding the device

The official name of the new act is "Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2008"

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All Comments (9)

Showing 1 - 9 comments


I am not in the favor of pcaitrce driving in your own car. I think one should pcaitrce on some old car, because if some damage happened then it will not so costly.

Jay M.,

I think that this law is a definite plus when it comes to making the roads safer. I also think that it's going to be very tricky/difficult to enforce simply becuase I can see a lot of people arguing it. For example, a business man has a very important call, takes it... gets pulled over and argues. Or a newly driving teen has a car stereo with a touch screen, it's low but still technically visible to the driver. How will situations like that be handled? I'm all for having a safer drive to school, but I don't want to have to worry about getting pulled over becuase a cop sees my GPS (that I use to find my way around my new city).


Hell, if it saves lives,I'm all for it. Texting on your phone or reading which song you want is extremely dangerous, and you are NOT giving the road your entire concentration. I was driving back from holidays thru Quebec, and heard that a 5 yr old boy had been killed by a driver who was chatting on his phone. Incredible. It takes only a few seconds to pull over and have your conversation, or get yourself a bluetooth device to avoid having to touch your phone. I'd rather spend $80 bucks on a device then to get a fine for $500.

Gonzalo Soto,

Cees is 100 % right.Driving is a matter
of life and death,and the decision that
makes the difference is in the order of
fractions of a second. Also, the technology to,selectively, block the operation of all those distractions, while the vehicle is moving,is available
and cheap to add at manufacturing time.Will our "leaders" give priority to
human lives over company's profits????

Cees Wildervanck,

The philosophy behind all this seems to be the common mistake that using in-car information devices are only dangerous if you look at them or handle them physically. Of course, it has been known for ages that the main problem is the mental load that using these devices poses. For instance, there is hardly any difference in risk between hand held and handsfree mobile phones.
As I've said many times: using a mobile phone is only safe when you can do it head free.

Tom R.,

You have to add to this conversation that under Canadian law, once charged, you are considered guilty until proven otherwise. This is derived from British law, which generally applies to Canada.

Tony Brown,

I'm glad that you have this law so we as Americans can avoid accidents problems


Technically, I think you COULD be busted. The law says "if the display screen is visible to the driver".

This is going to be difficult to enforce. However, on one blog I saw a comment about a driver in australia who lifted up his mobile phone from the seat beside him to check the time and got a ticket.


I don't get it.

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held....

HOLDING? So if I hold my cell phone, or my game player or other device with a display screen, I could be busted? What if I have a music player with a screen, that hooks into my car stereo, with wires or wirelessly, and I change songs or volume by HOLDING the device and manipulating the dials? I don't look at the screen, but it has a screen.

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