Toronto, Ontario – Drivers in Ontario will be prohibited from using hand-held cell phones or other hand-held electronic entertainment or communications devices under new legislation that could be in effect by as early as this fall. The use of hands-free devices would be permitted, along with emergency calls, such as to 911.

Transport Canada estimates that driver distraction is a contributing factor in about 20 per cent of all collisions, and drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash.

“We want drivers to focus on the task of driving,” said Transportation Minister Jim Bradley. “Driving safely must always be a driver’s primary task and responsibility; anything less is unacceptable. Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel — it is one of the basic tenets of safe driving.”

Once the law is in place, drivers who text, type, email, dial or chat using a prohibited hand-held device could be fined up to $500. The 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.

The law does not affect cell phones 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 other accessible place; or portable media players plugged into the vehicle’s sound system. Hand-held devices can only be used when the vehicle is safely pulled off the roadway, and not when stopped in traffic or at a red traffic light.

Similar laws are in place in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, California, New York, and more than 50 countries worldwide.

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