The Ontario government passed Bill 118 last April and recently announced that it will come into force on October 26. The government has indicated that there will be a three-month period of education following which tickets will be handed out starting on February 1, 2010.
While some other provinces were quicker off the mark, Ontario’s legislation seems to have garnered the most media and other attention. Employer’s are busy drafting and distributing policies to their workforce and educating them on what the law means.
While the legislation will (or should) change the way people behave behind the wheel, we should not be surprised that the government has decided to regulate the area. The National Safety Council had a Symposium on Distracted Driving. In a paper comparing cell phone use while driving and the drunk driver the authors concluded that:
When drivers were conversing on either a handheld or hands-free cell phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on a cell phone.
A seminal study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that evaluated the cellphone records of 699 individuals from the Toronto area who had been involved in non-injury traffic accidents. The study concluded that the risk of a collision when using a cellular telephone was four times higher than the risk when a cellular telephone was not being used
The Ontario Medical Association recently published a paper in which they review the literature on both behavioural and experimental studies and conclude that a strong association between cellphone use while driving and cognitive distraction which leads to deterioration in various driving performance measures and an increase in unsafe, collision-prone driving.
Leaving aside fines under the legislation, and potential tragic consequences, there are liability issues that an employer needs to be aware of. For an eye opening outline of some of them, have a read of Cell Phone Use in Car Leads to $5.2 Million Payout by Employer. If you’re a lawyer, read this one.