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Hold the line for safer roads

On Monday, police began issuing tickets to people using handheld cell phones and wireless devices while driving.
On Monday, police began issuing tickets to people using handheld cell phones and wireless devices while driving.

A lot of us are used to making phone calls from our cars—and we’ll probably miss being able to do that, but there is overwhelming evidence that the use of hand-held devices while driving makes our roads far more dangerous.

At some point you’ve probably seen someone at the wheel of their car dialling their phone, or even texting someone, without devoting full attention to the road. It can lead to some pretty reckless driving.

Research on the use of wireless devices while driving provides evidence that is more disturbing. When people use their handheld device while driving, they’re three times more likely to get in an accident. According to a 2008 study, when people text message while driving their reaction times deteriorate by 35 per cent, and their steering ability drops by 91 per cent.

The report concludes that people who text message while driving are more impaired than those who drive drunk.

Evidence of the potential dangers of using handheld devices while driving is overwhelming—as a consequence, governments throughout the world are now trying to curb the practice. Fifty countries have banned the use of cell phones while driving, including the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Australia.

This January, seven U.S. states introduced a similar ban. In Canada, Ontario is now the fourth province to ban handheld devices while driving—and two more provinces are planning to put in place a ban of their own. When the Ontario Government introduced its ban, we were pleased to have the support of groups like the Ontario Medical Association, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

Ontario’s new distracted driving law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using cell phones and other handheld communications and entertainment devices. The hands-free use of these devices is permitted.

The new law also prohibits the viewing of display screens unrelated to driving such as laptop computers or DVD players. The ban on handheld devices became law on Oct. 26, 2009, but for the past three months the focus has been on educating drivers about Ontario’s new road rules for handheld wireless communication and entertainment devices.

As of Monday, Feb. 1, drivers who are issued a ticket will now have to pay a fine of $155. The purpose of the ban is to make our roads safer. Encouraging people to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel makes it more likely that are you and your family will be safe on Ontario’s roads.

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