As of October 26, 2009, the provincial government officially banned the use of hand-held devices while driving in an attempt to make driving on Ontario streets and highways a safer experience. But you may be surprised to learn there are exemptions from the ban – let’s take a closer look at the Ontario law so we can all drive safer on the roads together.
The new law makes it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone to chat, text, type, dial or email others on the road. If a person is found to be doing any of these things while behind
the wheel, they can be fined up to $500.
So, why implement such a ban? Simply put, people using a cell phone or hand-held electronic device to make call or text acquaintances while driving are four times more likely to get into an accident, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. Texting is even more dangerous; according to a recent American study it means a driver is 23 times more likely to crash their vehicle.
Overall, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation estimates that people who use cell phones or hand-held devices while driving factor into about one in five of all traffic accidents.
Ontario is not the first state or province to implement such a ban. In fact, to date New York, California, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec have all introduced similar legislation. Worldwide, about 50 countries have officially introduced similar laws.
Thus, it’s important people know what the rules are when it comes to on-road communications. Is it still possible to place a call while driving, in any circumstance?
In short, the answer is yes. For one, it’s still legal to make an emergency 9-1-1 call with a hand-held phone. But in most cases the best way to avoid a costly ticket and stay safe on the road is to use a hands-free device.
Under the current Ontario hand-held ban, hands-free devices represent an exemption. Those devices that allow a driver to keep two hands on the wheel may be used to place calls. In most cases, this involves connecting a cell phone to a vehicle’s sound system or using an earpiece and voice dialing technology.
Drivers can also use a properly mounted and secured global positioning system (GPS) and a portable audio player attached to a car audio entertainment system.
A growing number of companies are developing new tools, often referred to as “telematics” that make navigating a phone, GPS, and car audio system with voice recognition technology. These products are available to the public right now, and offer a much safer way for drivers to keep in touch with the world around them.
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