Information for all drivers
1. What does Ontario’s ban on hand-held communications and entertainment devices include?

A: Ontario’s law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held
cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices.

Hands-free devices are still permitted.

The law also prohibits drivers from viewing display screens while driving, such as laptops or DVD
players, that are unrelated to the driving task.

2. What is the penalty for using a hand-held device?

A: Drivers caught using a hand-held device will face a set fine of $225 plus a victim surcharge and
court fees for a total of $280. Drivers who challenge the ticket in court face fines of up to $500.

The victim surcharge goes to a special fund administered by the Ministry of the Attorney General
called the Victim’s Justice Fund. The fund supports programs that provide assistance to victims or
witnesses of crimes.

3. How does this law benefit Ontarians?

A: The goal of the law is to make our roads safer for all road users. When you are behind the
wheel, anything that competes with your attention will impair your driving ability and increase
your risk of being in a collision.

Studies show that drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to get into a collision.

4. What is allowed/not allowed under the law?

A. The ban applies to hand-held wireless communication devices, hand-held electronic entertainment
devices and viewing display screens that are not related to the driving task.

As a driver, your first responsibility is to drive safely. If you must make a call or use a
wireless device while driving, you may do so in a “hands-free” manner. For example:
• a cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device using voice dialling, or plugged
into the vehicle’s sound system
• a global positioning system (GPS) device that is properly secured to the dashboard or
• a portable audio player (MP3 player) that has been plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.

Hand-held use of cell phones, satellite phones or smart phones while driving is not permitted. This
includes dialing, talking, emailing, texting, using it as a hand-held GPS device, using it as a
held MP3 player, and hand-held use for other purposes.

5. How do I use a wireless device in a hands-free manner?

A. Communications devices (i.e., cell phones, smart phones):

Drivers are only permitted to push the button on a wireless communication device to activate and/or
deactivate a “hands-free” function.

While many hands-free wireless communication devices on the market are entirely voice-activated,
there are some that require a button to be pressed to either activate or turn off the device. The
device should be mounted or secured on the dashboard or in a place that is easily accessible to
the driver without requiring him or her to adjust their position.

Entertainment devices (i.e., MP3 players) and GPS devices:

Drivers must program and activate GPS devices before starting their trip, and not touch the device
while driving. MP3 players must also not be touched while driving and should only be operated
through the vehicle’s entertainment system controls.

6. Are there any exemptions to the law?

A. 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 has safely pulled off the roadway and is not impeding traffic or is lawfully

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.

• 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
• Ignition interlock devices
• Car audio screens that display still images.

7. Are there demerit points associated with this offence?

A: No. However, drivers who endanger others because of any distraction, including hand-held and
hands-free devices may still be charged with Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act, or
even Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code – both charges carry heavy fines and penalties,
including demerit points in the case of Careless Driving. Dangerous Driving is a criminal offence
and, while demerit points are not involved, the maximum penalty upon conviction is much stiffer
than it is for Careless Driving.

8. Will police confiscate the wireless devices from drivers who are caught breaking the law?

A. No.

9. Can I use my hand-held device if I’m stopped at a stop light?

A. No. With the exception of a call to the police, fire department or emergency medical services, 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.

10. Are there plans to expand the cell phone ban to include other road users, such as cyclists and

A. No. There are no plans to expand the hand-held devices ban to include other road users.

11. What does public education period mean?

A. Ontario’s ban on hand-held devices while driving took effect on October 26, 2009.
During the three-month period ending February 1, 2010, the law was supported by a public education
and awareness campaign to inform the public about the new rules. If police feel a charge under the
law is warranted, a summons can be issued requiring the driver to appear in court and face a fine
of up to $500. On February 1, 2010, police started issuing tickets.
Drivers who endanger others because of any distraction, including hand-held and hands-free devices,
may be charged with careless driving or even dangerous driving (a criminal offence).

12. How do you know that the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving is dangerous?

A. Based on the best evidence from the experts, the use of hand-held electronic devices while
driving is dangerous. Studies show there is a four-fold increase in collision risk when drivers use
cell phones.

13. Are hand-held devices more dangerous than hands-free devices?

A. There is substantial evidence indicating that hand-held devices are more of a problem because,
in addition to the distraction associated with the length and content of the conversation, drivers
are operating a vehicle with one hand.
As well, enforcement would be difficult. How would a police officer know if a driver was talking to
a passenger, singing along with the radio, or speaking on a hands-free phone?

14. Why are you singling out communications devices and entertainment devices as distractions that
you want to ban? There are many other distractions.

A. Extensive research shows that the use of cell phones and other hand-held electronic devices by
drivers is a common in-vehicle distraction that significantly increases the risk of crashes and

The Ontario government has listened to the public, doctors, experts and police – and are taking
steps to prohibit this type of dangerous activity.

15. Can I still use my MP3 player while driving?

A. This depends on how the device is connected to the vehicle’s entertainment system. If the device
still requires the driver to manipulate the actual device to select content (i.e., the device is
only partially connected to the sound system or broadcasts through the sound system from a set
radio frequency), then the content must be selected and the device activated before driving the
vehicle. You must not touch the device while driving.

Note: There is a specific exemption for MP3 players that are completely integrated into the
entertainment system controls of the vehicle (i.e., the device would be entirely operated using the
same controls the driver uses for the car radio). In this case, the MP3 device is inserted into a
specially installed mounting device and wired into the vehicle’s entertainment system controls so
that it can be operated through those controls and not the controls on the MP3 device.

In the case of partially-connected MP3 players, the sound on the devices can be adjusted and the
audio program can be stopped using the vehicle’s entertainment system controls. The MP3 device
itself must not be manipulated while driving.

Information for commercial drivers, emergency and public service workers

16. Are there exemptions for emergency services workers and other commercial drivers?

A. Police and emergency services:

• Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel may continue to use hand-held
wireless communications devices and view display screens in the performance of their duties.
• Provincial offences officers and municipal by-law enforcement officers will be able to use
two-way radios and view display screens in the performance of their duties.
• Commercial and public service workers:
• Commercial and public service vehicle drivers 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.
• There was a three-year phase-out period for the use of hand-held, two-way radios for
commercial purposes which has now been extended for an additional five years (to January 1, 2018),
to allow for the development of a hands-free solution. This includes both mobile and Citizens’ Band
(CB) radios. Two-way radios have a separate receiver unit that is connected to a hand-held
microphone. The extended five-year phase-out also applies to amateur radio operators, who provide
assistance in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts.

17. What exactly is a two-way radio?

A. A two-way radio is a device that consists of a main receiver unit and a separate hand-held
microphone. Common types of two-way radios are Citizen’s Band and mobile radios (Very High
Frequency, Ultra High Frequency and High Frequency). The user must press a button on the microphone
to speak and release the button to hear the other party. Two people cannot speak at the same time
on a two-way radio.

18. What about other devices that are not covered under those exemptions, such as hand-
mikes and portable radios?

A. Unlike CB or mobile radios (two-way radios), devices such as hand-mikes and portable radios
(“walkie-talkies”) do not have a microphone connected to a separate receiver. Under the law, these
devices 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. This will allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and stay focused on the

19. Are there exemptions for viewing the screens of mobile data terminals?

A. Yes. Viewing the display screen of a mobile data terminal is allowed under the law 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 trucks and roadside assistance services. Many public services, including public
transit, also rely on these devices.

20. How does the law deal with the viewing of display screens?

A. The law allows display screens associated with mounted GPS devices used for navigation purposes
that are used in hands-free mode, display screens used in commercial vehicles to track the location
of the vehicle and provide information on cargo delivery, and display screens for collision
avoidance systems.

Also allowed are display screens of an instrument, gauge or system used to provide information on
the immediate environment of the vehicle (such as screens to allow drivers to see behind the
vehicle when backing up) and screens that provide information on road and weather conditions.
Display screens may be used by emergency services personnel (police, fire and ambulance) federally,
provincially and municipally appointed officers, constables and other enforcement officers. A
detailed list is included in the regulation.

Computer display screens are allowed for Industry Canada spectrum management officers enforcing the
appropriate use of radio frequencies, road authorities collecting pavement data, wireless/cable
staff monitoring service levels and auto mechanics and technicians testing vehicles in need of

Display screens must be placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle so that the screen does
not move while the vehicle is in motion.

21. Why a time-limited exemption?

A. An additional five years gives businesses more time to re-evaluate their practices. It also
the industry time to get to market hands-free versions of their devices.