TORONTO, Ont. –Ontario’s cell phone ban for drivers will kick in Oct. 26, with fines of up to $500 for offenders beginning Feb. 1, 2010 the province has announced.
The new law makes it illegal to use a handheld communications or entertainment device while driving.
Ontario joins many other jurisdictions with similar laws, noting that a driver is four times more likely to be in involved in an accident while using a handheld phone than a driver who’s focused on the road.
The ban does not include hands-free devices, including a cell phone with an earpiece or a headset that uses voice dialing. GPS systems that are properly secured within the vehicle are also acceptable, according to the province.
Truckers will also be able to continue using display screens that provide information about the status of the vehicle.
The province has also allowed certain exemptions for commercial drivers.
It will allow a three year phaseout period for the use of two-way radios including CB radios to allow time for hands-free alternatives to be developed.
The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) which lobbied for exemptions for truckers, said it’s been told by the Ministry of Transportation that if hands-free solutions for CBs are still not available in three years, the exemption may be extended.
Mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatch devices will not be banned, the province said, provided they aren’t being held in the driver’s hand while the vehicle is in motion.
Hand-mics (push-to-talk devices) and portable radios will be allowed in hands-free mode only, allowing a driver to use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mic or walkie-talkie isn’t held while driving, according to the province.
The OTA was satisfied that its concerns about the removal of tools of the trade truck drivers require on the job have been addressed.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the new law is directionally appropriate,” said OTA president David Bradley.
“We support the handheld cell phone ban and believe that the Ministry has made reasonable accommodation for most of the other handheld devices used by industry that serve an important business purpose.”
However, Bradley admitted truckers may be incensed to learn CBs will eventually be banned along with other types of communication devices.
“Given the still pervasive use of these devices in the industry, I expect there could be push-back from some truck drivers,” he said.
“In many respects the CB is not only an important part of the truckers’ social network, but it is also an important safety device in its own right. However, by introducing a conditional three-year phase-out, it gives us time to monitor how the technology develops and if need be, revisit the issue down the road. It doesn’t mean that CBs are going to be banned on Oct. 26, 2009 or Feb. 1, 2010.”
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