Toronto Police Conduct Distracted Driving Blitz in Downtown Toronto Feb.20-27, 2017

Update:

Increase fines for distracted driving from the current range of $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000, assigning three (3) demerit points upon conviction, and escalating sanctions on convictions for novice drivers.
Police will be moving around the city looking for anyone who is looking at their phone, texting, speaking on their phones. Anyone who is convicted of this offence will receive a fine of $490 and a penalty of three (3) demerit points. See sections 78 and 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act below. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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From Monday, February 20, 2017 to Sunday, February 26, 2017, Toronto Police Service Traffic Services will conduct “That Text or Call Could End It All,” a campaign targeting distracted driving.

This one-week initiative will highlight all dangerous activities associated with drivers who talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held communication and entertainment devices. This campaign will incorporate the use of a hearse and both stealth and fully marked police vehicles.

All police officers will be paying special attention to those drivers who choose to drive while distracted. Distracted driving is any action that a driver engages in that takes their focus away from the safe operation of their vehicle. It includes, but is not limited to, the use of hand-held communication and entertainment devices. Distracted drivers are a safety risk to themselves and other road-users. The Toronto Police Service is committed to ensuring the safety of everyone using the roads in and around our city.

The use of hand-held communication and entertainment devices while driving is known to distract drivers from driving safely. Legislation is in place which has created specific offences for this driving behaviour.

Since 2011 the Toronto Police Service has laid over 109,000 charges for offences related to distracted driving.

Police will be using stealth vehicles to sneak up on unsuspecting motorists (and marked cruisers as well) to provide them tickets when they observe a driver holding a cellphone. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Display screen visible to driver prohibited

  1. (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver.  2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Exceptions

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the display screen of,

(a) a global positioning system navigation device while being used to provide navigation information;

(b) a hand-held wireless communication device or a device that is prescribed for the purpose of subsection 78.1 (1);

(c) a logistical transportation tracking system device used for commercial purposes to track vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of packages or other goods;

(d) a collision avoidance system device that has no other function than to deliver a collision avoidance system; or

(e) an instrument, gauge or system that is used to provide information to the driver regarding the status of various systems of the motor vehicle.  2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Same

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle.  2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Exemption by regulation

(4) The Minister may make regulations exempting any class of persons or vehicles or any device from this section and prescribing conditions and circumstances for any such exemption.  2009, c. 4, s. 1.

Penalty

(5) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $1,000. 2015, c. 14, s. 22.

Section Amendments with date in force (d/m/y)

2009, c. 4, s. 1 – 26/10/2009

2015, c. 14, s. 22 – 01/09/2015

Hand-held devices prohibited

Wireless communication devices

78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.  2009, c. 4, s. 2; 2015, c. 27, Sched. 7, s. 18.

Entertainment devices

(2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Hands-free mode allowed

(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections in hands-free mode.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Exceptions

(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,

(a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle;

(b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;

(c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this subsection; or

(d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or circumstances.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Same

(5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact ambulance, police or fire department emergency services.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Same

(6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the roadway.
  2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.
  3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Penalty

(6.1) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $1,000. 2015, c. 14, s. 23.

Regulations

(7) The Minister may make regulations,

(a) prescribing devices for the purpose of subsections (1) and (2);

(b) prescribing persons, classes of persons, devices, activities, conditions and circumstances for the purpose of subsection (4).  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

Definition

(8) In this section,

“motor vehicle” includes a street car, motorized snow vehicle, farm tractor, self-propelled implement of husbandry and road-building machine.  2009, c. 4, s. 2.

The Court of Appeal of Ontario, decided in two cases four years ago (Kazemi and Pizzurro) that simply holding a phone, while driving a vehicle, is enough to convict someone of distracted driving. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Two (2) Important Decisions decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal for Ontario:

R. v. Kazemi, 2013 ONCA 585  (Khojasteh Kazemi)

Heard on May 27, 2014 and decided on September 27, 2013.

Heard on May 27, 2013 and decided on September 27, 2013

Both of these decisions (on section 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act) were decided simultaneously by the following panel of Court of Appeal Judges: John Laskin, S.T. Goudge and David Watt.  Judge Goudge wrote the decisions on behalf of the court, with Justices Laskin and Watt agreeing.

Khojasteh Kazemi:

On April 26, 2010, Ms. Kazemi was driving home from work alone.  While she was stopped at a stop light, a police officer observed her to have a cell phone in her hand.  She said that the cell phone had been on the seat but had dropped to the floor of the car when she braked.  She picked it up when she got to the red light.  That was when she was observed by the officer. She was charged with driving
while holding a hand-held wireless communication device pursuant to s. 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, as amended by S.O. 2009, c. 4, s. 2 (the “HTA”).  It reads as follows:

Wireless communication devices
78.1(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

Ms. Kazemi does not contest that when she was observed by the officer she was driving, and that her cell phone was a hand-held wireless communication device.  The central issue on appeal is whether the respondent was “holding” the cell phone for the purposes of s. 78.1(1).

The court decided that by holding the phone, even for a few seconds, as Ms. Kazemi admitted to, violates section 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. She was convicted of the charge. The court described the purpose of section 78.1(1) as ensuring road safety and driver attentiveness to driving.

Hugo Pizzurro:

On February 14, 2011, Mr. Pizzurro was driving southbound on Highway 11.  He was observed by a police officer to have a cell phone in one hand.  It appeared to the officer that the respondent was either typing or reading the information on it.

The respondent was charged with a breach of s. 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 as amended by S.O. 2009, c. 4, s. 2 (the “HTA”).  It reads:

Wireless communication devices
78.1(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

The trial court rejected the respondent’s argument that there was no evidence that what the officer observed him using was an operating cell phone, and that this was required in order to convict him.  The respondent was found guilty and fined $125.00.

On appeal to the Ontario Court of Justice, the appeal judge allowed the appeal and dismissed the charge.  He concluded that an essential element of the offence under s. 78.1(1) of the HTA is that the cell phone be capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages. He held that the burden rests upon the prosecutor to prove the essential elements of the offence, and in this case the prosecutor had failed to do so.

The Court of Appeal rejected the Ontario Court of Justice decision. Judge Goudge (on behalf of the Court of Appeal for Ontario) made the following decision:

“I conclude that s. 78.1(1) of the HTA does not require that the cell phone held or used by a driver while driving be shown to be capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.”

Both of these decisions, which still stand, means that if a driver is observed holding a cell phone, for whatever reason (while operating a motor vehicle as a driver), will be convicted under section 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. Police do not have to prove the phone works or that it is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

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