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Can Ontario Drivers Text or Talk on a Cell Phone at a Red Light?

Ontario law prohibits drivers from using their cell phones or hand-held devices while driving, i.e., talking while driving or texting while driving. Many drivers, however, believe that they can do so when they are stopped at a traffic light or not moving due to a traffic jam. Moreover, they believe that texting while driving or talking while driving is only dangerous when the vehicles are moving. This is simply not true.

Pursuant to Ontario law, it is illegal for Ontario drivers to talk or text on a cell phone even if drivers are stopped at a traffic light or stuck in traffic.

Ontario Distracted Driving Laws

Ontario's distracted driving rules are set forth in sections 78 and 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act. Section 78 (Display screen visible to driver prohibited) states:

(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Exceptions

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the display screen of,

(a) a global positioning system navigation device while being used to provide navigation information;

(b) a hand-held wireless communication device or a device that is prescribed for the purpose of subsection 78.1 (1);

(c) a logistical transportation tracking system device used for commercial purposes to track vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of packages or other goods;

(d) a collision avoidance system device that has no other function than to deliver a collision avoidance system; or

(e) an instrument, gauge or system that is used to provide information to the driver regarding the status of various systems of the motor vehicle. 2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Section 78.1 (Hand-held devices prohibited) states:

Wireless communication devices
(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Entertainment devices
(2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Hands-free mode allowed
(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode. 2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Thus, drivers are prohibited from talking, texting, typing, dialing or emailing on hand-held devices, cell phones and other entertainment devices while driving, which includes while drivers are stopped at a light or in traffic. The law also prohibits drivers from looking at display screens unrelated to driving, such as tablets, laptops, DVD players, etc. If drivers are programming a GPS device, they can only do so through voice commands.

The only time drivers are allowed to use their cell phones or hand-held devices is if their vehicles are:

  • off the roadway or lawfully parked on the roadway,
  • not in motion, and
  • not impeding traffic.

Help After an Ontario Car or Truck Accident

If you were injured in an Ontario car accident caused by a driver who was texting or talking on a cell phone, you have legal rights. Call the lawyers at Bergeron Clifford to schedule a FREE consultation. 1-866-384-5886

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