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When may I use my mobile phone while behind the wheel?

While not every safe driving measure can prevent a car collision, they do reduce the likelihood of a collision. Distracted driving laws and tougher impaired driving laws are meant to curb drivers from actions that may potentially harm themselves, other drivers, pedestrians or property.

Ontario’s distracted driving laws have been updated over the years as cellphone use, and smartphone devices, have become associated more with dangerous driving behaviour. If you have been charged with dangerous driving – resulting in bodily harm or a fatality, you will likely be facing criminal charges.

However, many people may not fully understand how safe driving practices apply to drivers. Does safer driving mean you can’t pick up a mobile phone in an emergency? Are you not allowed to use your GPS system to get you to your destination? Are you allowed to change the radio stations or is that considered distracted driving?

The Ministry of Transportation has a quick guide as to how a driver can use controls like GPS and cellphones while driving. In many cases where use of a smartphone’s functions is allowed, it’s only in a hands-free situation. For example, playlists and GPS locations are expected to already be enabled before you start driving. Picking up a hand-held device is also only allowed in emergency situations. The site states that if it’s safe to do so, pull over on a smaller street to make any emergency call to prevent any further potential accidents.

Distracted driving isn’t a criminal offence in Canada. It usually falls under a provincial or territorial Traffic Act. However, it’s generally treated as a quasi-criminal offence in the sense that it carries consequences that can include forms of imprisonment for repeat offenders. Distracted driving may lead to dangerous driving offences if severe or fatal physical damage occurs. Dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.

If you have been involved in a dangerous car collision, and are charged with dangerous driving, it’s important that you consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. He or she will be able to explain how the law is applied to your specific circumstances, and what legal options you have at your disposal.

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When may I use my mobile phone while behind the wheel? | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter