By on April 2, 2008

190576435_7977e11b28.jpgOn April 1st, 2008 significant modifications to road safety regulations in the Canadian provinces of Québec and Nova Scotia went into effect. reports that handheld cellular phones are now verboten while at the wheel, though hands free devices are still tolerated. Nova Scotia will begin ticketing the offense immediately, while Québec has allowed for a three-month grace periods in which offenders will only receive stern warnings and moralizing sermons. The first offense in Nova Scotia will cost $165, while costing $80-$110 and three demerit points in Québec. Still not satisfied, road safety advocate Jean-Marie de Koeninck argues that "[h]ands-free is just as dangerous. (But) by forbidding the hand-held it does send a signal that there is a problem with the cellphone, there's a problem with concentration". Meanwhile, the same traffic safety bill in Québec also doubled all speeding fines , with new suspension of license provisions for those caught traveling at 40 km/h over the limit in under-60 zones, 50 km/h in 60-90 over zones, and 60 km/h over in 100+ zones. All in the name of safety, presumably.

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19 Comments on “Québec & Nova Scotia Drivers: BEWARE...”

  • avatar

    If they are going to ban hands free cell phone headsets, they logically must also ban passengers and radios. Everyone shall drive alone and distraction free.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    More Government intrusion, more fines, more taxes. Welcome to the new world order. Is it too late for us to wake up?

  • avatar

    That argument has been debunked, guyincognito. A passenger (unless blind) can react to road conditions in the same way as the driver, and can tell when the driver needs to STFU and concentrate. Someone on the other end of a telephone cannot.

    The radio is a passive device, and while it is capable of minor distraction the driver’s brain will choose to ignore it when pressed by circumstances. (Fiddling with the radio, otoh, is a valid concern.) It takes an entirely different level of concentration to carry on a two way conversation with someone you can’t see.

  • avatar

    I really hope you don’t think passengers and radios are as distracting as cell phones. In case you hadn’t noticed, your passengers are in the car with you, and they are also generally aware of the road conditions and are aware of the status of the car (whether it is moving, stopped, going straight, turning, accelerating, sliding off the road into a ditch, whatever the case ay be). The radio, does not communicate with you, it communicates to you. With that in mind, if some dangerous situation comes up, your passengers know to shut up and since you weren’t having a conversation with your radio, it’s a non-issue.

    Cell phones have this major issue where the person on the other end has very little idea of what your current situation is, and expects your immediate and constant attention (not all people, but most are like this). There’s also the chance that they’ll tell you something so shocking that you will lose control of your vehicle (i.e. death in the family or similar). A passenger would know not to wait until the car was stopped or in an otherwise safe situation.

    I’d love to do research on this but I don’t have time. My hypothesis is that 50-60% of the distraction of a cell phone is operating it (holding it to your ear, only one hand on the steering wheel, dialing, pulling it out of your pocket to answer) and the other 40-50% is the conversation. With that in mind, a hands free is half as dangerous as conventional methods, but can still be quite dangerous. Most people I’ve found have no clue how to operate their hands free if it’s wireless (as almost all are now). They don’t know about features such as auto answer, which completely eliminates any physical interaction with the hands-free device. They don’t know that in general you don’t need to hang up your phone, if the other party does your phone will within seconds.

    I think education on the safe use of hands-free devices should be required for all license renewals. Just make it the same process as getting your license, but with a shorter exam that just focuses on things such as cell phones and other in-car distractions (like most fat americans who love eating in their friggin cars).

  • avatar

    Its about time a couple of provinces started showing the way with phones in cars…driving and using a phone is comparable to being under the influence.

    Employees are starting to sue employers if they are involved in accident while on the phone, and can blame it on the employer that obliges them to use the phone while driving.

    In Ontario if you are 50 over, its street racing, huge fine, huge points, impound the car on the spot.

    kansei, its ironic that cars are safer, and the people driving them are increasingly more dangerous.

  • avatar

    Same restrictions just passed in California as well with the added restriction of no cell phone usage of any sort by drivers under the age of 18 (minors). However, I was told by a CHP officer that while this was the law, it was hardly practical, or even possible in the case of minors, to enforce it. How are they able to tell if a minor is driving down the road texting or using a handsfree cell phone device? They’re not. Where this may really come into play is a situation where they pulled you over for another infraction and tack an added charge of using a handheld cell phone on top of whatever the intial violation was that got their attention in the first place.

  • avatar


    De Koninck’s quote doesn’t quite make sense. Is that a misquote?

  • avatar

    Actually the evidence that cell phone conversations, including hands free, have a strong impact on driving is pretty convincing. I think it is mostly politics that allows any cell phone use while driving. As the research comes in, I fully expect the issue of hands free cell phone use will be revisited in the next few years. It may not be too much of stretch to think that other systems in cars — voice activated navigation comes to mind — might also become a point for discussion. The fundamental problem is not the devices, it is us.

    Here is one center for academic research into the issue. Read the brief summary of their findings:

    In their recent work (look at the 2006 papers) they show that cell phone use while driving puts the driver at the same level of risk for an accident as being drunk. Think about that next time you see someone in a truck or SUV engaged in a conversation.

    And here is a report from researchers at the National Driving Simulator concerning hands free devices and their ease of use (which in this case means degree of driving distraction). It turns out they involve more work than users think. There are several projects aimed at bracketing the impact of driving distractions by cell phones, etc. The results of these studies will likely have a great impact on future lawmaking.

  • avatar

    Cell phone ban, okay.

    But the doubling of speed fines, in Québec is blatant gouging in a province already beset with egregiously high speeding fines combined with artificially low speed limits.

    In all highways in “urban centers” (cities!), the limit is 70km/h (~45mph). At any given moment, everyone is breaking the law, since traffic moves between 110-115 km/h (68-72mph).

    And those average speeds are not just my personal observation… they are what the officer noted on the speeding ticket he gave me awhile back, on one of these urban highways.

    In noting that he clocked me at 132km/h (82mph), he also added in his notes “… while traffic was flowing at 110-115 km/h”. Thus:

    Real situation: I was travelling 17-22km/h (10-14mph) over traffic.

    Artificial contrived situation created by the bogus law:
    – “I was at 62km/h over the limit”
    – $565 fine
    – 7 demerit points

    That last one means insurance will consider me “aggressive” and I’ll continue paying for it over the next six years.

    This was ridiculous enough already (and not a benefit to society as far as I’m concerned). It gets worse that under these new tax grabs “safety regulations”, I would have had my license suspsended on the spot… for driving 10-14mph over traffic.

    Utterly absurd.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    I can tell you from experience and no study otherwise would ever convince me. Children (and sometimes pets) passengers ARE potentially more distracting than cell phones. Not a big cell phone user or advocate.

    Johnny Canada: I was just going to answer your question with a simple yes. But I can only speak for my generation. And, I think, it IS too late for us. We, as a generation (once refered to as the “Me Generation”, BTW) have not done the world any favors. One can only hope that future generations will find a way to stop the degredation of the free spirit.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I would ban them if I were king. I would do lots of things. Voice operated hands free should be OK.

    I would set speed limits to what is safe for normal people and enforce that.

  • avatar

    In Ontario the posted speed limit on 400 series highways is 100kph…the flow of traffic is at 120 to 130…you don’t get stopped.

    On the 401 between MTL and TO the speed limit is 100 kph set the cruise at 125 you will not get stopped.

    In Ontario getting stopped doing 132 in a 70, you’re on foot on the side of the road, car impounded, with a 2,000 fine. They will call a tow truck for your car, and a cab for you.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised you missed the other piece of motoring legislation from here in Nova Scotia.

    Smoking in a car with someone under 18 is also now verboten.

  • avatar

    This has absolutely nothing to do with safety. It is all about MONEY. Now, minor infractions become big ones, which allow the 900 lb gorilla into the room: Surcharged insurance rates. Remember, the moneymen fleece the sheep, not kill them. That way they can go back for more. Hands free, ok. Everything else is just a rob job.

  • avatar


    Thanks for your insight about Ontario.

    One clarification:

    On its own, doing 132 in a 70 is HUGE, which is exactly my point, in that this is the same highway that is the continuation of the Trans-Canada (aka 401), but because it is in a city, the limit drops to 70.

    Traffic continues at 110-115, but suddenly the 132, which could have been a 95$ fine if it is still was a 100 zone (or a 120 zone as it should be), is now an impoundable, megacrime.

  • avatar

    More of the Nanny State! Maybe if Quebec didn’t concentrate its resources on Language Police, they wouldn’t need the additional income that will doubtless be forthcoming from this ban.

    I hate it when people use a cell phone when they drive, but I hate it more when government imposes heavy fines on its citizens in an attempt to baby them.

  • avatar

    Ban cell phone use in cars, as far as I’m concerned. I cannot tell you how many times a week I see people driving very, very poorly – and inevitably, they are blabbing on their *********
    cell phones.

    I’ve had SUVs nearly cream me so many times by their inattentiveness, that I automatically am now wary of any SUVs and watch doubly to see if they are

    – weaving
    – going slower, then faster, then slower
    – making sudden stops due to catching up to traffic

    Virtually all of the time, when I see these actions and others, sure enough, there they are on their ********* cell phones.

    Driving with a cell phone plastered to the ear IS is bad as driving drunk, no ifs ands or buts.

    As for speeding – well, don’t you Canadians have a vote?

    So, vote these imbeciles out.

    If you don’t like overly low speed limits, then write to politicians and TELL them to take these laws and stuff them. TELL them to make the speed limits more realistic.

    BUT if you do manage to make the speed limits more realistic, you’d better be prepared for the flip-side.

    I think that if speed limits are reasonable and proper, then we’d better actually obey them.

    After all, a driver’s license isn’t “license” to do as we please; it should rather be called a “driver’s permit” – when we take it, it is under conditions set by the public as a whole through our representative governments. The condition is that we have the privilege to drive so long as we obey the rules!

    Wow, I know…. what a novel Idea. “OBEY”. and “RULES”.

  • avatar

    twice in this last week I’ve witnessed “almost” accidents – both times it was a cell phone user

    both times the user was also female so that might have been it as well . . . . . (-hides-)

  • avatar

    I have no problem with REASONABLE speed limits being more strictly enforced. As has already been said, the issue is that the current speed limits aren’t reasonable and therefore no one follows them, nor are we expected to. Police generally don’t run radar on the highways through Montreal, even though everyone goes over the limit. Doing the posted 70 km/h (that’s 45 MPH on 2-3 lane, separated highways) is not only uselessly slow, it’s downright dangerous with other traffic going at least 30 km/h faster. Under the new rules, police can just occasionally go out and pick off whoever they like and hose them with a huge fine – like shooting fish in a barrel – just for going with the flow of traffic. It has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with making a greedy (and lazy) cash grab. Speaking of which, ask the owner of any sport motorcycle (even if it’s from 1985, worth $1000 and vastly slower than modern “sport-touring” bikes) how much they’re now paying to register their bike. It’s in the neighbourhood of $600/year (up from $320 last year, and there have been talks of making it an even $1k in the future). The Quebec government are a bunch of crooks.

    As for the doubling of demerit points, I’ll admit that it took a fair bit of hoonery to get the required 15 points to lose your license under the old system. It would have taken going 120 km/h over the speed limit in order for that to happen in one shot. However, any driver who has more than 3 points (even under the old scheme, that amounted to anything more than rolling one stop sign every 2 years) is faced with an “insurance” surcharge. It’s important to note that this surcharge is collected by the government, not by the insurance companies. Still think it’s about safety?

    If the goal were safety, the motorcycle solution would be tiered licensing and better rider education. Where they could have made it law that Billy 16 year-old isn’t allowed to ride a 180hp Hayabusa as a first bike (a lethal combination by any metric), they instead decided that he can (and pay 14% sales tax on it), but he and everyone else who rides a sporty bike – as defined by a list the government came up with/pulled out of its ass, which includes 80 hp bikes from the 80’s yet somehow overlooks vastly more performance-oriented 130+hp bikes from only a few years ago – have to pay insane amounts of money to register them because Billy will supposedly cost the government a lot of money in the form of healthcare when he wads his bike up.

    If the goal were safety, they’d set reasonable speed limits and enforce those vigorously, instead of setting artificially low ones and enforcing them only occasionally but demanding enormous fines when they do pull someone over.

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