Ontario Court of Appeal : Even if your phone is off, it is still illegal to hold a phone while driving.
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CBC news reported that the Ontario’s Court of Appeal has determined that it is indeed illegal to hold a cellphone when driving. The decision was released on Friday in 2 cases where 2 people were convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for violating the ban on using cellphones when driving. One case involved a woman who argued that she wasn’t using the phone but merely picking her phone up off the floor after it had fallen. She was stopped at a red light when doing so and a police officer noticed her with a phone in her hand.
Originally, the charges were dismissed when a judge decided that there needed to be some “sustained physical holding” to convict of these charges; however, the Appeal Court overturned that decision.
In another related case, a driver was caught driving and holding a cellphone but argued that it couldn’t be proven that the phone was sending or receiving at the time. The Ontario Court of Appeal did not see it that way and determined that holding a mobile phone is an offence under the law because ” the language in the law requiring a capability of sending or receiving applies only to devices other than cellphones , because cellphones have that capability automatically built-in.“
It was reported on cbc.ca that Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said that the goal of Ontario legislature is to make sure that drivers focus “on one thing and one thing only: driving,”
The Court of Appeal went on to state that having a complete ban on holding a cell phone while driving “best focuses a driver’s undivided attention on driving.”
Despite distracted driving campaigns and police enforcement, according to the Transport Canada’s National Collision Database for the years 2006 to 2010, fatal accidents where distracted driving is noted as a cause have gone up by 17 % in Canada from 302 deaths to 352. Having a complete ban on holding a cellphone while driving may remove temptations for some to “quickly” check something and lose their driving focus. I believe the The Court of Appeal’s decision is aiming to eliminate any grey areas and hopefully the end result will be safer roads and fewer accidents related to distracted driving.
For several years, distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving as one of the top causes of accidents in Ontario. While many point to teenage drivers as being people that drive distracted, it is a problem across the ages. Although cellphones are a huge problem when it comes to distracted driving, there are also many other distractions out there such as children in the back seat, eating, animals in the car, putting on make-up etc…
We all need to use common sense and keep our focus on what we are doing; whether that be driving or walking. The stakes are too high and the statistics don’t lie. Please, put your phone away and keep your eyes on the road !