Brian Northgrave

From some digging in the Internet, it appears that there are about four standard arguments - as set out below - for both the pro and the con of legislating against hand-held cell phones while driving. Where I was unsuccessful in my digging, was finding some generally accepted statistics on accidents that could be attributed to use of cell phones while driving. If anyone turns up some, please let us know.

Legislation is not needed

-Ontario drivers are already seriously over-regulated. What is next? A driver having a sip of coffee? Changing the radio station? Eating a chocolate bar?

- Laws exist in Ontario against careless driving and police can enforce them when using a cell phone while driving threatens public safety.

- Anyway, a new law against using a cell phone while driving would be virtually unenforceable given how difficult it would be to see, and prove, that the driver was speaking into his/her cell phone.

- Calling for a law against using cell-phones is a sign of being old and out of it. For a young person these days, a cell-phone is part of his anatomy, and youngsters can talk on the phone in a car with less danger to others than when someone like me lights their cigar in a car. Of course, talking on the phone AND lighting a cigar while driving has to be dangerous when anyone does it.

Legislation is required

- Most Canadians see the danger in driving while talking on a cell-phone, particularly when it is not “hands-free”. A Legér marketing survey conducted in 2001 found that over 80% of Canadians thought such a practice should be made illegal – in Ontario the figure was 78.3%.

- Legislation forbidding such use of a cell-phone exists in many countries in Europe, in New York, and in Newfoundland.

- Newfoundland’s experience is encouraging to those calling for legislation in Ontario. In the four years since Newfoundland’s law has been passed, it has survived an appeal to a superior court (defence was “sure I had it against my ear, but who can say that it was on”), and the authorities have been able to enforce it with increasing success. Convictions – involving fines of from $100 to $400 and loss of 4 (of 12) demerit points – have gone from 131 in 2003 to 328 last year.

- Experience in Ontario has shown that cell-phone users will ignore public information campaigns, and that the only effective deterrent to this dangerous practice is to follow the Newfoundland practice and make hand-held cell-phone use while driving illegal. If the call is important, the driver can pull over to make it.

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