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Road Rules for Hand-Held Wireless and Entertainment Devices

Archived Backgrounder

Road Rules for Hand-Held Wireless and Entertainment Devices

Ministry of Transportation

Ontario's new distracted driving law makes it illegal for motorists to use hand-held wireless communication devices or hand-held electronic entertainment devices while driving.

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


Ontario's new law applies to hand-held wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices.  This means that motorists may still use these devices in a "hands-free" manner.  To minimize distraction, hands-free use of wireless devices should be kept to a minimum while driving.

Examples of hands-free use include:

  • a cell phone with an earpiece or headset using voice dialing, or plugged into the vehicle's sound system (when equipped)
  • a global positioning system (GPS) device that is properly secured to the dashboard or another accessible place in the vehicle
  • a portable audio player (i.e., MP3 player) that has been plugged into the vehicle's sound system.

Installing and using hands-free wireless devices in your vehicle

When setting up your wireless device for hands-free use while driving, it is important to ensure that the base of the device is secured to your vehicle so that it does not move when driving or block your view of the road.  The device must be placed within easy reach, and be positioned in such a way that you can view it without adjusting their seat or driving position.

Many wireless communication devices require users to push a button to activate or deactivate the device's "hands-free" function.  This is permitted under the new law.  However, in the case of GPS devices, drivers must program and activate their GPS before starting their trip, and not touch the device while driving.  MP3 players must not be handled while driving and should only be operated through the vehicle's entertainment system controls.


All drivers

Drivers will be permitted to:

  • call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
  • use these devices when the driver has safely pulled off the roadway (and is not impeding traffic) or is lawfully parked.

Devices not included in the ban:   

  • display screens used for collision avoidance systems.  For example, devices that warn drivers when other vehicles may be travelling too close
  • display screens providing information on the immediate environment of the vehicle.  For example, screens that allow drivers to see behind the vehicle when backing up
  • a display screen of an instrument, gauge or system that provides information to the driver about the status of systems in the motor vehicle.  For example, a dashboard display that provides vehicle maintenance reminders, fuel mileage and engine temperature information, etc.
  • display screens that provide information on road and weather conditions. 

Emergency response personnel

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

Ontario government provincial offences officers and municipal by-law enforcement officers may use two-way radios and view display screens in the 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) is permitted until January 1, 2013 to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.

Commercial drivers

Some drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school bus and taxi drivers, 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.

There is a three-year phase-out period until January 1, 2013 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 does not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices.  They are permitted 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.  The driver may use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkie is not held while driving.

For more information on specific exemptions for commercial drivers and emergency and other public service workers, download a copy of Ontario Regulation 366/09.

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