Truck News


De-mystifying the Nova Scotia cell phone ban

HALIFAX, N. S. - On Apr. 1, Nova Scotia introduced a ban on using cell phones while driving, joining Quebec, whose own ban kicked in that same day, and Newfoundland, who has had the ban since 2003. Fo...

HALIFAX, N. S. – On Apr. 1, Nova Scotia introduced a ban on using cell phones while driving, joining Quebec, whose own ban kicked in that same day, and Newfoundland, who has had the ban since 2003. Forgivably, given that interpretation seems to be nine-tenths of the law, speculation about exactly which communications devices fall under the ban is spawning its own micro-mini urban mythology.

Trucker William Gerhardt exclaimed in an e-mail to Truck News, “We are located in Lunenburg Nova Scotia and use walkie-talkie phones and were told that you can not use any device like that including CBs by a government employee who asked transportation officials. How reasonable is a law like this?”

Great Village-based trucker, Donald Cock, tracked down by land line at the Double C Truck Stop in Debert, said, “A friend of mine in the RCMP said the 10-4 system is Okay. You just can’t have a cell phone stuck up to your face when you drive.”

However, he added, “They tell me a headset isn’t legal.”

Paul Easson, general manager of Eassons Transport in Berwick, commented from his Blackberry on Easter Sunday (he was not driving at the time), “I have not seen the actual legislation but have not heard it banned anything but cell phones.”

Wayne Onda, executive director of the Trucking Association of Nova Scotia, stated, “It is a cell phone and text messaging ban.”

Who has it right and who does not?

The wording of Bill 7 is short and sweet: “It is an offence for a person to use a handheld cellular telephone or engage in text messaging on any communications device while operating a vehicle on a highway.”

Otherwise, notes the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act, “This Section does not apply to a person who uses a handheld cellular telephone or other communications device to report an immediate emergency situation.”

So there it is: Do not use your cell phone clutched in your hand while driving. Do not text message on any communications device, while driving. If that seems too easy to believe, believe Sgt. Mark Gallagher, the official spokesperson for the RCMP in Nova Scotia.

“You can’t go beyond what the letter of the law is. We are not going to start interpreting the law. The law is the law. What I say to people is: ‘Don’t start interpreting the law. Don’t embark on rumours.'” He also stated that the RCMP is not interested in CBs or walkie-talkies.

But hang on a second. What is this text messaging business? Don’t truckers do that from their on-board computers? Hoping for more grist for a best-selling book of cell phone ban myths, I asked Easson if he thought the ban covered on-board computers.

“On-board computers have always had notices on them saying ‘Do not read while driving.’ The newest units we have now have text-to-speech so we will migrate toward that. I am sure drivers read messages while on the road regardless of the warning.”

Good answer, Paul, but now I feel millions in royalties slipping out of my sweaty paws.

The port of best hope seemed to be the Justice Department, which Sgt. Gallagher advised would give an interpretation of the law. But one reach short of the wharf I became becalmed at the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

“The legislation is specific to cellular telephones. What the Bill is intended to address is cell phones, Blackberries and handheld items,” says spokesperson Cathy McIsaac. As for headsets, she says, “If it is hands-free technology, it will be permitted.”

She also stated that CB radios are not part of the ban.

Straightforward is as straightforward does, except that everyone knows that a law without fuzzy edges is like a lawyer without a job. I asked Sgt. Gallagher what would happen if a person were stopped and ticketed for using a 10-4 or CB, you know, by a peace officer who hadn’t read this article.

“If something like that were to happen, people must realize the information on the ticket has to go to the Crown prosecutor first. They have to be comfortable before the charges go ahead. This has happened before.

“The people could be contacted and told that the charges would not be laid. If you receive a ticket and don’t agree with it, the side of the road is not the place to debate it. Inform yourself as far as the letter of the law. You can call the province and get an interpretation of the law in writing. Take it to the RCMP and discuss it. If there is no discussion let the courts decide.”

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