Bob Gardiner reminds us that the grace period for the ban on hand-held devices while driving is coming to an end. 


Now it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or e-mail using Blackberrys, cellphones and similar hand-held devices.

Bill 118, the Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, promoted by the Ministry of Transportation, took effect on October 26, 2009. A three-month probationary educational period will end February 1, 2010, when police will begin issuing tickets to offenders, resulting in fines of up to $500.

Employers, such as property management companies, could be held vicariously liable for payment of fines or damages arising from an injury or accident deemed to have been caused by an employee’s inattention to driving while manipulating a hand-held device. It is recommended that employers issue the company’s no hand-held policy to employees prohibiting use of hand-held devices while employees drive a car, except in accordance with permitted hands-free technology such as Bluetooth. It is expected that if a driver involved in an accident was found to be using a hand-held device at the time of a collision, such unlawful use may more likely be deemed to be the cause of an accident and possibly result in a higher award of damages against such a driver and employer. Delivery of a no hand-held policy to employees should exempt employers from vicarious liability.

Studies indicate that drivers using cellphones are four times more likely to crash, while those texting messages may be the cause of approximately 20% of all collisions. Ontario has joined 50 other countries and several Canadian provinces which enforce rules against driving while using a hand-held device.

Drivers who need to gab while driving will still be entitled to use hands-free technology such as can be provided by various Bluetooth devices. Choose systems which allow vocal dialing or speed-dialing of your favorite numbers.

Firefighters, paramedics, police and drivers dialing 911 will be excepted from enforcement of that law. Regulations dealing with other exempted cell phone scenarios are also being enacted.