Court rulings released Friday have affirmed that holding a cellphone or any other wireless communication device — even briefly — while driving is illegal under the Highway Traffic Act.
Both defendants were convicted of distracted driving before a Justice of the Peace. Both appealed. Their convictions were overturned at the Ontario Court of Justice. The Crown appealed the settings aside to the Court of Appeal. The appeals were argued on May 23; an amicus curiae was appointed in Pizzurro.
Section 78.1 (1) of the Act prohibits anyone from driving a motor vehicle while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device, such as a cellphone.
In a legal analysis, the questions the court would ask are:
- First, is the person driving a motor vehicle on a highway;
- Second, is the driver doing so while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device;
- Third, is that device capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.
The recent Ontario Court of Appeal cases bring the law into focus.
In Kazemi, the Court of Appeal for Ontario stated that “road safety is best ensured by a complete prohibition on having a cellphone in one’s hand at all while driving. A complete prohibition also best focuses a driver’s undivided attention on driving.”
In Pizzurro, the Court of Appeal for Ontario found that the Crown does not have to prove whether a hand-held wireless communication device is working, to obtain a conviction.
Both decisions were unanimous, by Justices John Laskin, David Watt and S.T. Goudge.
The number of fatal collisions where distraction is cited as a cause have risen by 17 per cent in Canada over the most recent five-year period — from 302 deaths to 352, according to data from Transport Canada’s National Collision Database for the years 2006 to 2010.
More Information on Distracted Driving:
The Court – Osgoode Hall Law School Article
Digital Journal Video
WorkSafe British Columbia video:
Director Werner Herzog’s viral distracted driving video: