Ontario Liberal MPP Yvan Baker’s proposed ‘zombie law’ has passed its first reading in the province’s Legislative Assembly.
Bill 171, tabled by Baker in October 2017 and formally known as the Phone Down, Heads Up Act, aims to amend the Ontario Highway Traffic Act by establishing a series of increasing fines for crossing a “roadway while holding and using a wireless communication device, electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device,” in circumstances when the pedestrian using the device isn’t trying to contact emergency services or making a phone call.
Interestingly enough, the bill’s text specifies that pedestrians won’t be fined for making a phone call only if they’re continuing a phone call that was started “before crossing the roadway.”
Individuals can be fined $50 CAD for a first offence, $75 for a second offence, and $125 for each subsequent offence.
When Baker first tabled the bill, he specified that his goal wasn’t to charge fines or fees, but to simply raise pedestrian and driver awareness.
The bill even currently includes an escape clause for municipalities that don’t want to enforce the law. As such, it will most likely be enforced like Ontario’s jaywalking laws — as well as the jaywalking laws that technically do exist in most municipalities.
That is to say, the law will be there, and people will no doubt violate it, but at least it might stop some pedestrians from checking their phones while crossing the street.