Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
British Columbia has signaled its intent to prohibit drivers from using cell phones and other hand-held technologies that may lead to distraction while behind the wheel.
The province announced draft legislation October 21, 2009. “Simply put, you cannot talk, type or dial on any hand-held device while driving,” solicitor general Kash Heed says of proposed amendments to British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act.
Only hands-free cell phones and devices that require one touch to activate would be permissible while driving, notes a statement from British Columbia’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Get caught talking on a hand-held phone and that will produce a $167.00 fine, e-mailing or texting will add three licence demerit points.
The Ministry reports that an average of 117 people die each year in the province and 1,400 are sent to hospital because “someone was not paying attention behind the wheel.”
Hand-held technology laws passed or being contemplated in Canada could have workplace safety legal implications, suggest Mary Beth Currie, a lawyer at Bennet Jones LLP in Toronto. In Ontario, for example, it is not inconceivable that an employer could be charged with failing to take every precaution reasonable to protect workers, pursuant to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
One such scenario might be as follows:
An employee texting while driving a company vehicle on the job is injured in a collision. The employer has no policies on appropriate staff use of hand-held devices in company vehicles and has not drawn attention to Ontario’s new cell phone law.
But employees “should bear primary responsibility for compliance as they are the ones who control what they do in the vehicles they drive [personal or company],” Currie comments. As well, “employees have an obligation under the OHSA to work safely, which means in compliance with this statute.”
Saskatchewan is set to join provinces saying “no” to talking and texting while driving. The province tabled legislative proposals and, if passed, the ban was to take effect in January 2011.
Experienced drivers will be allowed to use hands-free devices while driving, while drivers in the provincial graduated licensing program, would be prohibited from using “cell phones of ant type while operating a motor vehicle,” says a release from Saskatchewan Government Insurance. The penalty for breaching the requirement would be $280.00 and four demerit points.
Police, fire and medical services personnel would be exempt from the new law while performing their duties.
The province of British Columbia was driven to enact legislation to ensure that their roads were not going to be a danger due to distracted driving. They had this on their mind very early indeed (as early as 2008-9) and were ready to do something about it.
Today, we have many new vehicles that are hands-free devices that can be sync’d to the vehicle if so equipped. So much better to push a button, initiate a call, either voice-activated or from a simple push on a button on the steering wheel.
Near the end of the school year, I drove past a high school in the area and was stopped. There were 6 or 7 vehicles coming out of the parking lot, all young students, with the cell on their left ear as they were leaving. I guess it is okay while leaving school. NOT!
Drunk and distracted driving is a menace to the road and I, for one, am glad we have the legislation, and enforcement, to keep out streets a little safer.
I enjoyed the remarks about the scenario where the employer needs to have a policy and procedures dealing with distracted driving when an employee is representing the company and I would wager that most do not have them. If this is your company then look towards the future and make the workplace (which could be a vehicle) a safe place.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.