Ontario targets cell phones, text messages

Ontario drivers would be prohibited from using hand-held cell phones and texting devices under a bill being pushed through by Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

The Canadian province would join Newfoundland and Labrador in banning use of cell phone while driving unless a hands-free device is employed. The transportation overseers say hand-held devices are involved in about a fifth of all highway accidents.

Drivers’ use of other devices such as iPods, MP3 players, video game players and laptop computers would be prohibited under the proposed law. Bill 118 is called the “Countering Distracted Driving Act.

Fines begin at $500 per infraction. Motorists who cause harm to others while using a cell phone or similar device face fines of up to $1,000, license suspension and possible imprisonment.

The Ontario Medical Association recently pushed for a ban on cell phoning while operating a vehicle, saying it is clear that any activity such as dialing, typing or reading a text message is unsafe for drivers and those around them.

“Doctors know all too well the consequences of driving while distracted,” OMA president Ken Arnold said.

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