Distracted Driving - Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What about hands-free devices?
Q2: Can I use my hand-held device when I'm stopped at a stop light?
Q3: Are there any exemptions to Ontario's distracted driving law?

Q1: What about hands-free devices?

You can use any device that you do not touch, hold or manipulate while driving, other than to activate or deactivate it. Actions like dialing or scrolling through contacts are not allowed.

Type of device

Can I use it?

A cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device using voice-activated dialing.

Yes - only to activate or deactivate a “hands-free” function, and only if the device is mounted or secured.
Actions like dialing or scrolling through contacts are not allowed.

A GPS screen

Yes - provided the GPS is mounted on the dashboard or windshield. 
You must input the required information before you start driving.

A portable media player plugged into the vehicle's sound system.

Yes - but you must activate the playlist before driving

Display screens that are built into the vehicle and used for safety reasons.

Yes

Ignition interlock devices.

Yes

Q2: Can I use my hand-held device when I'm stopped at a stop light?

No. With the exception of a call to the police, fire department or emergency medical services personnel, a driver of a motor vehicle must be pulled off the roadway and not impeding traffic, or lawfully parked to use these hand-held devices.

Note : It is dangerous to stop on the shoulder of a 400-series highway and drivers are prohibited from pulling off a designated 400-series highway and parking for a reason other than an emergency. If the situation is not an emergency, drivers are advised to exit the freeway at an interchange or pull into the nearest service centre.

It is important to remember that collisions do not just occur while a vehicle is in motion. Drivers stopped at lights and using a cell phone or smart phone (e.g., BlackBerry) are often not paying attention to the light cycle and frequently miss advance turn signals or green lights. They are also not paying attention to the actions of other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.


Q3: Are there any exemptions to Ontario's distracted driving law?

When driving, you are not permitted to use hand-held communication and entertainment devices or view display screens unrelated to the driving task, with the following exceptions:

  • Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
  • When the driver is lawfully parked or has safely pulled off the roadway and is not impeding traffic.

Note: It is dangerous to stop on the shoulder of a 400-series highway and drivers are prohibited from pulling off a designated 400-series highway and parking for a reason other than an emergency. If the situation is not an emergency, drivers are advised to exit the freeway at an interchange or pull into the nearest service centre.

Commercial and public transit drivers, as well as public service workers who are engaged in the performance of their duties, will be able to view the display screens of mobile data terminals and logistical tracking and dispatching devices. Specified commercial, public transit (includes bus) and public function drivers, and licenced amateur radio operators have been provided an exemption for the hand-held use of two-way ("CB") radios until January 1, 2021.

Other devices not included in the ban:

  • Viewing a display screen used for collision avoidance systems
  • Viewing a display screen of an instrument, gauge or system that provides information on the conditions, use and immediate environment of the vehicle or that provides road or weather information
  • Ignition interlock
  • Car audio screens that display still images

Devices like hand-mikes and portable radios (walkie-talkies) that do not have a microphone connected to a separate receiver may not be used as hand-held devices, but may be used in a hands-free manner. Drivers may use a lapel button or press a button on the device to transmit or receive voice communication as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkie is mounted or secured and is not being held while driving.

Viewing display screens of a mobile data terminal is allowed for commercial purposes. These devices provide operational information from a dispatcher or control centre, and are essential to commercial operations, including licensed taxi and limousine services, couriers, tow truck and roadside assistance services. Many public services, including public transit, also rely on these devices.


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