The cellphone prohibition while driving only applies to
hand-held devices. If necessary, drivers may still have telephone
conversations while driving so long as they use hands-free devices
(such as Bluetooth devices). In addition, the law also does not
apply to drivers in vehicles pulled off the roadway, vehicles that
are lawfully parked, to 911 calls, or vehicle display screens that
show information about the vehicle's status. It is clear that
the intent behind the law is to minimize driver distractions -
keeping the driver's hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Drivers who break the law may be required to pay fines, up to a
maximum of $500.
Looking back, some readers may recall that when the new law came
into force, the Ontario government provided drivers with a
three-month period in which the focus for police officers was on
educating drivers about the new law. Following this period,
starting on February 1, 2010, police began issuing tickets to
enforce the ban. It has now been well over a year of handsfree
driving. Sources indicate that over the last year, 45,975 tickets
were issued to drivers caught breaking the law - which averages
about 138 tickets a day across the province! Given this date from
the past year, the question now becomes: How effective has the law
been? Full statistics have yet to be collected and analyzed, but
surely the results will be intriguing. After all, I think that most
of us still see many drivers on the road who talk and text while
Indeed, the idea behind the "using a cell phone while
driving ban" was to reduce potentially deadly traffic
accidents in a fast-moving environment where multi-tasking can be
dangerous. Studies conducted prior to the amendments, including one
by the Ontario Medical Association, indicated that the use of cell
phones while driving dramatically increased the risk of
Further, some studies had suggested that the risks from
cell-phone use while driving equaled those from alcohol impairment.
In fact, one U.S. study had estimated that driver distraction was a
factor in 80% of North American car crashes. If accurate, this
figure is a stark reminder of how important full concentration is
while driving. But this study also sparks various other questions:
Is driving while eating a dangerous distraction? What about driving
while drinking coffee and other beverages? If so, does the
government ban drive-through restaurants? How would the police
enforce these dangerous distractions? Where does the line between
multitasking and convenience versus distraction and danger get
drawn? These are all questions that the Ontario government will
ultimately have to consider at some point in the future.
There is no question that technology has made multi-tasking in
our lives far more easier and convenient. However, in the context
of driving, unnecessary multitasking should always be avoided.
Driving requires your full attention. It only takes a split second
for a dangerous situation to arise, and reaction time alone takes
split seconds to negotiate through the danger. The evidence speaks
for itself: drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely
to be in a collision than a driver who is focused on the road. Stay
alert, stay focused, and arrive alive.
Amato v. Welsh, 2013 ONCA 258 marks an interesting development in the law – it suggests the previously inviolable doctrine of absolute privilege which protects lawyers from suit may admit an exception.
As the current trend to self-representation increases, regardless the reason, one must ask if the tradition of lawyers appearing before Courts, above the Ontario Court of Justice, ought to continue the traditional legal wearing of robes.