About the Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2009
The Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2009 makes it illegal for motorists to use hand-held wireless communication devices or any hand-held electronic entertainment devices while driving. Once fully in place, the new law will also prohibit drivers from using portable video games or viewing display screens unrelated to the driving task such as laptops or DVD players while driving.
Which electronic devices will still be permitted under the new law?
The legislation applies only to hand-held wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices. This means drivers may use a wireless communication or entertainment device that can be operated in a "hands-free" manner, for example:
- 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 media player that has been plugged into the vehicle's sound system.
A driver's first responsibility is to drive safely. Any unnecessary activity that distracts a driver from the task of driving should always be avoided.
Drivers who place others at risk as a result of using a hands-free device or any other distraction can be charged with careless driving and face fines of up to $1,000, six demerit points, a driver's licence suspension and possible jail time. If convicted of dangerous driving (a criminal offence), drivers could face a penalty of up to $2,000 and five years in jail.
Can I use my hand-held cell phone to call for help in an emergency?
Yes. Drivers may place emergency calls to the police, fire department and emergency medical services. If possible, drivers should pull off the road before making an emergency call.
Can I use my hand-held cell phone or other device while I'm stopped in traffic or at a red traffic light?
No. Drivers will only be permitted to use their hand-held device when safely pulled off the roadway.
Will the law apply to all drivers?
No. Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel will be permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices in the normal performance of their duties.
The Ministry of Transportation is also considering additional exemptions for certain communications devices used to dispatch, track and monitor commercial drivers and include these in supporting regulations. The ministry is working with stakeholders to ensure that the legislation does not place unintended restrictions on industry.
How will this legislation promote green transportation in Ontario?
The legislation updates the Public Vehicles Act regarding carpooling by removing the barriers and red tape associated with forming carpools in Ontario. This includes amending the definition of a carpool vehicle to recognize informal carpools that operate between municipalities for purposes other than just home-to-work and work-to-home trips.
When will the new law come into effect?
It is anticipated that the ban on hand-held devices will take effect as early as fall 2009 to allow for the development of supporting regulations.
Amendments to the Public Vehicles Act with respect to carpooling will come into effect immediately upon Royal Assent of this legislation.