Ontario Bans Use of Handheld Devices While Driving

The Ontario government recently passed Bill 118 – Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act. While Ontario is not the first jurisdiction in Canada to do this, it is the largest province to impose such a ban. The result of the new law is that drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices (cell phones, pagers, Blackberrys, GPSs and even MP3 players such as I-pods) while driving. Drivers may use these devices in hands-free mode, provided the device is firmly secured to, or mounted in the vehicle.

Enforcement of the law will begin in earnest starting February 1, 2010, when fines will be imposed. Until then, offenders will receive warnings.

This law is important to employers who have employees who travel and who use cell phones and other devices to carry out business (most sport organizations fall into this category!). Not only will employers be potentially liable for fines and penalties, they may also be liable for more, should an employee be involved in an accident as a result of being distracted while using a hand-held device. This has occurred in the United States and in one recent case, an employer’s insurer settled a claim for about $2 million USD when an employee inadvertently killed a pedestrian while talking business on her cell phone.

The solution? As an employer you need a policy to set out the parameters of acceptable use of portable technologies while driving. Your policy can be as simple as prohibiting your employees from using these devices at all times while behind the wheel. Alternatively, you can supply your employees with the appropriate hands-free accessories and mounting systems and require that all employees use them at all times. Either way, a clear policy is necessary to safeguard your organization or business.

Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2009) Vol. 5(3)

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