Ontario’s law banning the use of handheld electronic devices by drivers is now in effect.
Enforcement of the province-wide ban started Monday, but the fines that could sap violators of $500 (CAN) won’t kick in until Feb. 1, 2010.
“This law is about keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel,” Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said at a news conference in Toronto on Monday. “We need to prevent these unnecessary road accidents and I believe this law will do just that.”
Drivers may continue to use cell phones if a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset
Violations include talking, texting or emailing on cell phones or PDAs while behind the wheel. Cell phones may be used if the driver pulls off the road, but not while stopped in traffic.
Laptop computers and entertainment devices such as DVD players and game units are covered as well. The law prohibits viewing of any electronic screen “unrelated to the driving task such as laptops or DVD players while driving,” Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation says.
GPS units are exempted if they are mounted to a dashboard and iPods must be connected to the auto’s speaker system.
Read Ontario’s complete Rules for Hand-Held Wireless and Entertainment Devices.
There are no points charged to the license under Ontario’s new law, but drivers who endanger others while using electronic devices could face 6 points and fines up to $1,000.
The Legislature unanimously passed the plan on April 22, 2009. Premier Dalton McGuinty had opposed the ban but gave in to growing support. The intent was to get the law in place before the onset of winter driving.
Newfoundland and Labrador have long outlawed use of handheld cell phones while driving. Quebec and Nova Scotia joined the club this year. British Columbia is about to enact similar sanctions.
Saskatchewan and Alberta are in various stages of enacting bans against drivers using handheld cell phones and text messaging.
Read the Ontario cell phone and texting bill 118 (PDF).