Ontario's New Rules For Hand-Held Wireless And Entertainment Devices

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's New Rules For Hand-Held Wireless And Entertainment Devices

Ministry of Transportation

As of October 26, 2009, Ontario's new distracted driving law will make it illegal for motorists to use hand-held wireless communication devices or any hand-held electronic entertainment devices while driving.

This includes hand-held cell phones, texting and e-mailing.

Hands-free devices will still be permitted.  

This new law also prohibits viewing a display screen unrelated to the driving task such as laptops or DVD players while driving.    

HANDS-FREE DEVICES

The new law applies only to hand-held wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices.  This means drivers must only use wireless devices that can be used in a "hands-free" manner:

  • a cell phone with an earpiece or headset using voice dialling, or plugged into the vehicle's sound system
  • a global positioning system (GPS) device that is properly secured to the dashboard or another accessible place in the vehicle
  • a portable audio player that has been plugged into the vehicle's sound system.

Some wireless devices require that users push a button to activate and/or deactivate the device's "hands-free" function.  This activity is permitted under the law. 

HAND-HELD DEVICES

All drivers

Drivers will not be permitted to use hand-held communication and entertainment devices when driving, with the following exceptions:

  • Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
  • When the driver has safely pulled off the roadway and is stationary or is lawfully parked.

Other devices not included in the ban:   

  • Viewing a display screen used for collision avoidance systems
  • Viewing a display screen of an instrument, gauge or system that provides information to the driver about the status of systems in the motor vehicle.

Emergency Response Personnel

Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel will be permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices and view display screens in the normal performance of their duties.

The use of hand-held radios by amateur radio operators (who provide assistance, especially in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts) will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.

Commercial Drivers

A small percentage of drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school buses, taxis, couriers) and public service workers (e.g., transit and highway maintenance workers) rely on the use of certain types of wireless devices and display screen technologies in the performance of day-to-day operations.

To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario is granting a three-year phase-out period for the commercial use of two-way radios, including mobile and CB radios, to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed.

The new law will not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices.  They will be exempt for commercial and public service vehicle drivers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.

Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may be used in a hands-free mode.  This would mean the driver can use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.

Additional Resources

Media Contacts

  • Bob Nichols

    Communications Branch

    Bob.Nichols@ontario.ca

    416-327-1158

  • Patrick Searle

    Minister's Office

    patrick.searle@ontario.ca

    416-327-1815

  • Ajay Woozageer

    Communications Branch

    416-327-1158

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Driving and Roads