Need to talk? Pull over!


WINNIPEG – Effective July 15, 2010, it will be illegal to use hand-held cell phones while driving. Motorists in Manitoba will be required to pull over and stop their vehicles if they need to take or make a phone call or text a message – that is, unless they use hands-free devices that allow them to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Drivers caught texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone while operating a motor vehicle will be fined $199.80 under the new amendment to the Highway Traffic Act.

“We know the hazards that distracted drivers create on our roads. Talking on a hand-held cell phone and texting are major distractions while driving and we’re moving to make our roads safer for all Manitobans,” said Transportation Minister Steve Ashton last month when he announced the forthcoming effectivity of the new law.

“Driving a motor vehicle requires the total concentration of a driver, as life-saving decisions are often made in an instant,” said Manitoba Public Insurance CEO and president Marilyn McLaren. “Text messaging or using a hand-held cell phone while driving are both identified forms of driver distraction that can lead to a crash.”

Manitoba’s legislation allows the use of cell phones while driving to make telephone calls, provided they are equipped as hands-free devices and used in a hands-free manner. The law also allows the use of a hand-held cell phone to call the police, fire or ambulance service in an emergency.

According to the Manitoba government’s website:

• The number one source of driver inattention is cell phones. Drivers talking on cell phones are nearly twice as likely as other drivers involved in crashes to have rear-end collisions.

• Drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

• Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision or near-collision.

• Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 per cent.

Under the amendments, motorists may also face a fine of almost $200 for smoking in vehicles when children under the age of 16 are passengers.

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island have comparable laws and Alberta recently introduced legislation banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Several jurisdictions also have laws prohibiting smoking in vehicles with children present including British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

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