Stein Monast informs you...Laws and rules
Current state of the law regarding cellphones while driving
Since the replacement of section 439.1 of the Highway Safety Code by section 443.1, we have seen the important concern of the Quebec legislature to overcome the problem of distracted driving, particularly with regard to the use of cell phones. Indeed, this new article is more restrictive than its predecessor and its non-compliance leads to more severe penalties.
Generally, it is prohibited to use a cell phone, a portable device designed to transmit or receive information or to be used for entertainment purposes, or a display screen. For example, digital tablets, smart watches, GPS devices and "iPod" type players are targeted.
However, the Code now specifically provides in which cases the use of a device is permitted under two conditions. First, it must be equipped with a hands-free device. Attention, if you do not use the loudspeaker function, Article 443.2 provides that the driver of a road vehicle may only wear one earpiece with one ear. Then it is permissible to consult a display screen or to operate a command on the device, provided that the following formalities are all met, or that the display only displays information relevant to the driving of the vehicle, that it is integrated into the vehicle or installed on a support, that it is placed so as not to obstruct the driver's view or to interfere with his maneuvers, and that it be positioned and designed so that the driver can consult it and use it easily.
It should be noted that the legislator has not yet specified the content of this "information relevant to conduct", which leaves room for interpretation by the courts. For example, the current current appears to allow the use of GPS systems and electronic daily logs, in compliance with the conditions mentioned above, since the information displayed is reasonably relevant to driving. On the contrary, the driver who took the name of an artist he heard on the radio in a red light, was found guilty.
In addition, a driver was recently acquitted for consulting his GPS while the screen was not integrated into the vehicle, nor fixed on a support as provided by law, but held by the hand of the passenger. In this case, the judge concludes that there has been a violation of the law, but that the act complained of is so minimal that he can not alone justify a conviction. However, the Court recalls that this de minimis defense applies only to the most obvious cases.
We find, particularly in the provisions of the Act to amend the Highway Safety Code and other provisions, exceptions to the prohibition of 443.1. Section 211 provides that the prohibition does not apply to a two-way radio ("CB"). It is therefore permitted to use a CB if the device complies with conditions 2 to 4 of section 443.1 listed above. In addition, the article does not apply to the display screen used for the management of messages in connection with the activities of a business or to collect fees payable by the passenger of a vehicle, again subject to conditions 2 to 4.
Under former section 439.1, the fines for this offense were between $ 80 and $ 100 for a driver of a road vehicle. Wanting to demonstrate the importance given to the problem of distracted driving, the legislator has raised the fines between $ 300 and $ 600. Moreover, in case of recidivism, the minimum fine is doubled! In the same vein, the number of demerit points has been increased from 4 to 5 points. This offense also leads to 3 points in the PECVL file, just like its predecessor. Finally, the driver is also liable to an immediate suspension of his driving license of 3, 7 or even 30 days, depending on whether it is a first, second or third recidivism over a period of two years. With these new measures in place, the legislator clearly demonstrates the seriousness of this offense.