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

Ontario laws prohibit drivers from using their cell phones or hand-held devices while driving. These include talking or texting while behind the wheel. Many drivers, however, believe that they can do so when they are stopped at a traffic light or not moving due to ongoing road congestion. This is mostly because they think that texting or talking while driving is only dangerous when vehicles are moving. This is a misconception that can have considerable consequences. Pursuant to Ontario law, it is illegal for drivers in the province to use their cell phones even if they are stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. With that said, what is the law for distracted driving in this province in terms of specific fines or otherwise? Let’s take a look in more detail.

Ontario Distracted Driving Laws

These rules are outlined in sections 78 and 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act. This legislative document governs the conduct of drivers in all capacities, setting out strict adherence drivers must follow to be in accordance with the law. Section 78 (display screen visible to driver prohibited) of this Act states:

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

The 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.

Furthermore, section 78.1 focuses on hand-held devices that are prohibited. It 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, dialling, 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 road or lawfully parked.
  • Not in motion.
  • Not impeding traffic.

The Repercussions of Distracted Driving

In recent years, distracted driving laws have undergone review from the government to be updated to what are considered more severe consequences of breaking these mandates. A combination of fines, licence suspension, and demerit points are all possible depending on the number of times you have been pulled over and charged because of this law. Each conviction, therefore, carries with it a different weight of results.

So, what’s the fine for texting while driving or illegally using your device in other ways as outlined above? A first offence, under the circumstances that you have a full licence, will result in a distracted driving ticket of $615 if settled out of court, or up to $1,000 if you receive a summons, fight the ticket, and are unsuccessful. You will receive three demerit points, which are a way for law enforcement to deter you from poor driving, and stay on your licence for up to two years. Your licence will also be suspended for three days.

If you are found breaking these laws a second time, you will receive the same minimum ticket as your first offence, but the fine of texting or talking while driving will cost you $2,000 if you fail to fight the ticket successfully. Six demerit points will be tacked on your licence. It will also be suspended for up to one week.

For a third, or continued conviction thereafter, you may be required to pay a fine of up to $3,000 for a distracted driving ticket. Another six demerit points will be added to your licence. At 15 points, your licence immediately becomes suspended for 30 days. Finally, regardless of the number of demerit points you have accumulated, your permit to drive will be taken away for 30 days.

If you are a novice driver (someone who has a G1, G2, M1, or M2) who is convicted of distracted driving, you won’t receive any demerit points, but rather more severe consequences, such as an immediately suspended licence. If you are convicted a third time, your licence will be cancelled and you will be removed from the graduated licensing system, resulting in a need to start the program all over again.

Help After an Ontario Car or Truck Accident

Distracted driving is an ongoing problem in this province, resulting in 285 fatal road collisions 2021 alone. 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 that should be protected. Working with a personal injury lawyer can ensure your voice is heard, and there is also the possibility that you will receive fair compensation for injuries sustained from this unfortunate incident. 

Our lawyers at Bergeron Clifford have extensive experience in this legal area and are capable of coming up with a plan to ensure your motor vehicle accident does not leave you suffering financially. To schedule your free consultation, contact us online or call 1-866-384-5886.

Contact Bergeron | Clifford LLP

Let us help you if you have been injured anywhere in Eastern Ontario. Contact us at 866-384-5886 or fill out our online form. We can meet at any of our office locations, including Kingston, Ottawa, Whitby, Carleton Place, Perth or wherever is most convenient for you.

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