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What are the exemptions?

Drivers can still use "hands-free" devices:

  • A cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device using voice-activated dialing.  Drivers can push a single button to activate or deactivate a "hands-free" function, as long as the device is mounted or secured (for example, in a mobile phone mount attached to the dashboard by Velcro or in a cup holder).
  • The screens on GPS devices may be viewed while driving, provided the device is mounted on the dashboard or secured to another place in the vehicle (for example, on a GPS windshield suction mount not blocking the driver's view, or in a GPS dashboard mount).  Typically these units issue voice commands and drivers must input the required information before they start driving.
  • A portable media player (e.g. iPod) plugged into the vehicle's sound system with the playlist activated before driving.

As a driver, your first responsibility is to drive safely:  any unnecessary activity that distracts a driver from the task of driving should always be avoided. 

The law does not apply to: 

  • Drivers in vehicles pulled off the roadway or lawfully parked. (Note: It is dangerous to stop on the shoulder of a 400-series highway and this should only be done in 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.)
  • 911 calls
  • Pressing the button of a hand-held device to:
    • activate or turn off hands-free mode
    • transmit or receive voice communication on two-way, CB or mobile radios. Hand-mikes and portable radios ("walkie-talkies") require a lapel button or other hands-free accessory connected to the device.

Note: the device must be placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle when the button is being pressed.

  • Viewing display screens that are built into the vehicle
    • used for collision avoidance systems
    • showing information about the vehicle's status, or that provides road or weather information
  • Ignition interlock devices
  • Audio devices with screens that display still images (for example, an MP3 player displaying a still image of the artist or the name of the song playing)
  • Police, paramedics and firefighters, and enforcement officers using hand-held devices and viewing display screens when performing their duties

Why a time-limited exemption?

Commercial drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school buses, taxis, couriers) and public service workers (e.g., transit and highway maintenance workers) rely on the use of certain types of wireless devices and display screen technologies in the performance of their duties.

To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario granted a three-year exemption which has been extended for an additional five years (to January 1, 2018) to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed:

  • Hand-held two-way radios for commercial purposes, including mobile and CB radios.
  • Amateur radio operators, who assist emergency responders in situations such as severe storms and blackouts.

Review the full regulations in the Highway Traffic Act here.

Read scenarios that show how drivers can make a few simple changes to comply with the new law.

As a driver, your first responsibility is to drive safely.  Focus on the task of driving, with your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.