Ontario: Cellphone ban will cost you now

Cellphone ban will cost you now. You can’t say they didn’t warn you.

As of Monday, drivers caught texting, emailing, browsing or dialing a hand-held electronic device — that’s cellphones, MP3 players, laptops, DVD players, even GPS — could face fines up to $500.

The only way you can talk your way out of this one is with an emergency — a real one; 911 calls are permitted.

If you see a cop, firefighter or paramedic using one of these forbidden devices, don’t look to them as an example. They’re allowed hand-held devices while working.

Until January 2013, drivers of courier delivery vehicles, tow truck, taxis, streetcars and road-building machines can use a two-way radio.

The law took effect Oct. 26, but a grace period allowed drivers to get away with a warning when tampering with electronics before February 2010.

Careless drivers caught disobeying the rules will be slapped with a set fine of $125 plus a victim surcharge and court fees that bump the ticket up to $155.

If a case goes to court, the fine could climb to $500.

Police officers are free to hit errant drivers with the additional charges of dangerous driving or careless driving if they see fit, Toronto Police Traffic Services Sgt. Tim Burrows said Sunday.

The three months since the law took effect can be broken down into three phases of driver compliance, Burrows said.

The first month we saw that there was a lot of talk about it and a lot of awareness that was going on and you still saw a lot of the distractions — the typing, the texting, the email and naturally, the talking,” Burrows said. “In the second kind of phase where we were really talking it up and it was really well known that this was an education period, you got people that were getting it but still trying to hide what they were doing.

Right now, we’re seeing hardly any of the type and text,” he added. “What you are still seeing is you’re seeing people holding it up to their heads and talking on the phone, but gladly you’re seeing a lot more compliance with more Bluetooth-type devices and wired headsets.

A service-wide campaign was initiated asking all officers to pay attention to the new legislation and enforcement, Burrows said.

We know that there’s going to be charges, we just hope that it’s minimized because people have bought into the concept that this is a safety issue and we want safer roads,” he said.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, a cellphone-using driver is four times more likely to be in a collision, with dialing and texting carrying the highest degree of risk.

More than 50 countries already have similar laws in place. Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, California and New York also have such prohibitions in place.