Distracted Driving – Cell Phone

(As of Sep. 17, 2020)

Please seek updated legal advice from us after that date; laws often change.

8.1 (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.

Cell phone charges are seldom negotiable but if the Police Officer is mistaken, and you did not use or touch your phone while driving, then you should let us help you fight the ticket.  If you are innocent, we will defend you.

What if you are guilty?  We can still try to assist you and determine if there is a way to eliminate or reduce the charge, or you can choose to defend yourself, or to simply plead guilty. This is of course what we do for a living, so we would be much more likely to spot errors that might exist – whereas an untrained person might have little ability to recognize fatal errors in disclosure or protocol.

The penalties are unfortunately quite significant and set out below. These are high percentage wins if you are innocent – innocent people should not be convicted. They are low percentage cases if you are guilty, but all you would really have at risk, is the cost of our fee. If you do wish to proceed to hire us, then it must be with the understanding that there can be no guarantees and that, despite our best efforts, we might not able to improve your position. 

However, in the long run, defending every charge is the best path to preserving your license and avoiding insurance ramifications.

Display screen visible to driver prohibited

78 (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);

Hand-held devices prohibited

Wireless communication devices

78.1 (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; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.

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.

Same

(6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the roadway.
  2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.
  3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

[15]        Display Screens and Hand held devices O.Reg. 366/09

Exemption for pressing buttons is found at section 14

A person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while pressing a button on a hand-held wireless communication device to make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio if the device is placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle so that it does not move while the vehicle is in motion and the driver can see it at a quick glance and easily reach it without adjusting his or her driving position.

Please note: Using your phone while stopped at a red light is unfortunately not a defence.

Penalties if convicted: For a first offence a full G license holder will receive a 3 day suspension + 3 demerits. A novice driver does not get demerits but does receive a 30 day suspension. Please see below for ease of reference:

 

Drivers with A to G licences

If you have an A, B, C, D, E, F, G and/or M licence, you’ll face bigger penalties when convicted of distracted driving:

  • First conviction:
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • three demerit points
    • 3-day suspension
  • Second conviction
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 7-day suspension
  • Third and any further conviction(s)
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 30-day suspension

Novice drivers

If you hold a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences. But you won’t receive any demerit points.

Instead of demerit points you’ll face longer suspensions:

  • a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
  • a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
  • cancellation of your licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction
    • to get your licence back you’d have to redo the GLS program

Careless Driving

You could face more serious charges – if you endanger other people because of any kind of distraction. This includes distraction caused by either hand-held (e.g., phone) or hands-free (e.g., Bluetooth) devices.

If convicted of careless driving:

  • six demerit points
  • fines of up to $2,000 and/or
  • a jail term of six months
  • a licence suspension of up to two years

If anyone is injured or killed then the penalties go up dramatically.