What Was I Talking About? Oh Yeah, Distracted Drivers

October 23, 2009

Ontario’s new driving-while-distracted law comes into effect Monday. It’s intended to crack down on people who use cell phones or other electronic gadgets while driving. These can include MP3 players and GPS units. If you’re caught, you could pay a $500 fine or be charged with careless driving, depending on the circumstances.

I’m puzzled by this.

First of all, I understand the need to stop people from using cell phones while driving. We all see it, and we all see it too often. Some of us even do it. I did it the other day. Now I will stop. Using a phone is risky, especially when dialling. Or texting — people actually do this, the morons. This should be illegal, and it is. In my defence, I’ve never dialled while driving. I just answer the phone, because I tend to think every call is an emergency about the kids, when it’s usually just a certain someone wanting to know if I bought dishwasher detergent on the way home.

I don’t quite get the MP3 player/GPS unit part of this legislation. According to the fact sheet issued to Ontario newspapers this week, drivers are to use hands-free units to operate phones, MP3 players and GPS devices. Hands-free phone units are common enough; I have one, and my stepmother, who pretty much works out of her car, has one of those visor devices.

But I’m not sure what a hands-free device for my iPod would look like. Another set of controls? A remote unit wired to the steering wheel? I suppose they’re talking about people who scroll through their iTunes library between songs, looking for that Def Leppard tune they heard on the radio last week, what was it, you remember the one …

I tend to run my iPod off playlists, whether music or podcasts, so once it’s plugged into the van’s stereo, I put the iPod itself in one of those little dashboard drawers vans are full of. It plays to its heart’s content and I never touch it, not unless I stop. Or my phone rings. Which I will not answer from here on in. Unless I remember my earpiece, which I never do, because it looks stupid.

GPS units are another matter. They’re designed to be used in cars. They’re mounted on the dash, and tend to have touchscreens, making them about as simple to operate while driving as a radio. How is this going to work? Not having ever used one, I can’t really offer an informed opinion, but it seems to me GPS makers and dealers might have something to say about this law, if they haven’t already. Why is the government effectively shutting down a business over a questionable safety issue?

It could be that I don’t have all the facts I need, but I’ve read every news article I can find on this, and these areas remain cloudy. My questions — and the questions of many others, I’m sure — go unanswered.

Nowhere in this legislation will you find the words “coffee” or “donut.”

If the government really wants to take on businesses who contribute to this problem, why not crack down on idiots who drive around sipping hot coffee from flimsy paper cups during rush hour? Coffee they bought from, you guessed it, drive-throughs. I was just out doing a couple of errands, and thinking about this issue, so I started watching, and sure enough, I saw three different people driving one-handed on the busy boulevard. There’s a Timmy’s with an eternal long lineup right there, of course. There’s a Timmy’s everywhere. This all happened while I was listening to the latest Nerd Hurdles show, in which my name is mentioned in the same sentence as Tim Hortons. This makes me really, really Canadian.

I applaud the no-phone rule. That makes sense. But I wonder why it’s still okay to fiddle with your car stereo while you drive, and I would like more clarity from the mainstream media about the use of music players and GPS units. Also, I wonder why there’s no coffee crackdown.

  • Update: Finally, some clarity: Leave it to The Canadian Press to understand the new law and explain it for readers. Kudos. Read it here.


  1. dude, i think she’s eating a bagel.

  2. In February 2007, while sitting in the passenger seat of her friend’s car in Minneapolis, waiting to turn left in an intersection where they had the green light, my wife was struck by a Hummer driven by some fuck on his cell phone, too busy to see that his light was red. My wife suffered broken ribs, a cut to her forehead that required stitches, internal brusing…and the 8-month old baby girl growing inside of her, whom we named Millie after my grandmother, was killed. Murdered. Millie had dark hair, like her dad. I never even got to meet her. This law hits home, and I fully support it.

  3. car stereos that are made by Kenwooda are the best and very durable–~

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