Cell phone use while driving: What you need to know

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Cell phone use while driving: What you need to know

On April 1, 2008, two new provisions of Quebec’s Highway Safety Code came into effect: one regarding excessive speeding and the other imposing a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. While the purpose of the former provision is quite obvious – it calls for harsher penalties for motorists stopped for driving well in excess of posted limits –, the latter may require a few clarifications.

“Hands-free” only
Any use of a hand-held cell phone that does not have a “hands-free” function is now prohibited while driving. Motorists were granted a three-month grace period, during which they only received a warning when arrested for this type of offence, but since July 1, 2008 they have to pay a fine of $115 (including court costs) and have three demerit points added to their driving record.

The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec also specifies that if you absolutely must use your phone, you must do so from a safe location; i.e., a parking lot, a service area, or on the side of the road as long as the speed limit is 70 km/h or less.

Better yet: don’t use the phone at all
CAA-Quebec reminds the public that the true danger is that while driving, the mere fact of having a phone conversation is a source of distraction. It therefore urges motorists to heed the following advice:

  • You are better off not talking on the phone at all while driving, “hands-free” or not.
  • When you’re on the road, turn off your handset so that any incoming calls are forwarded to your voice mail. Or, if you have a passenger, let that person make or receive calls.
Be aware*

  • Drivers who are holding a cell phone in their hand are presumed to be using it.
  • Any device that has a telephone function, such as a wireless information device (e.g., BlackBerry), is therefore prohibited when it is held in the hand.
  • To use a device with a telephone function, held in the hand, drivers must bring their vehicle to a stop in a location where parking is authorized.
  • Except in an emergency situation, no one is allowed to bring a vehicle to a stop on a highway shoulder, on-ramp or off-ramp.
  • Drivers waiting at a red light or delayed in traffic are considered to be driving their vehicle.
  • Use of a “hands-free” cell phone is permitted.

*Source: Road safety, A hand-held cell phone: Illegal!, Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec

© CAA-Quebec. All rights reserved, April 2008

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