Ontario residents are in for a new level of DWT (Driving While Texting) enforcement this week after an Appeals Court overruled two decisions by lower courts on whether it was legal to have a phone in one’s hand while at the wheel.
The court ruled on two separate occasions that because a cellphone is capable of sending and receiving even while not in use, and even with the screen off, it violates the existing law against using handheld devices while driving. “Road safety is best ensured by a complete prohibition on having a cellphone in one’s hand at all while driving,” said the judge in one of the cases.
The argument against holding a phone isn’t so much that it is inherently distracting, but that it can tempt drivers, once at a red light or away from imminent danger from other motorists, to begin using it. In one case, a woman’s cellphone had dropped to the ground and she was pulled over and booked by police as she briefly held it after picking it up.
“To hold out the possibility that the driver may escape the prohibition because the cellphone is not shown to be capable of communicating, however temporarily, is to tempt the driver to a course of conduct that risks undermining these objectives,” the judge said in the second case.
Ontario drivers, as with many other Canadian provinces, must connect their smartphones to a hands-free talking device such as a Bluetooth speaker or wired earpiece, before making calls.
Be safe out there!