Opinion: Car cellphones a convenient danger

I’m guilty of it — and so are countless other drivers that I see on a daily basis when I’m commuting to East York.

Once that phone starts to ring or vibrate, it just has to be answered right away.

But now I might have to change my ways, and so might a lot of other people — because of the new legislation to ban hand-held devices to talk, e-mail or send text messages while driving.

When the legislation to ban hand-held devices was first announced last fall, I was a little frustrated at the thought of wearing an earpiece simply to answer phone calls on my 45-minute drive to East York.

But after witnessing some very suspect driving on the 401 because drivers are yapping away on their phones and completely disregarding their blind spots when changing lanes, I sometimes think it would have been better if this new rule was enacted years ago.

But better late than never. At least the new rules are now in effect, having come into force this past Monday.

Initially, drivers are just going to get warnings if they are caught on their cell phones. But they can be charged up to $500 after the three-month “education” period ends on Feb. 1.

We all smirked a bit when Maria Shriver, the wife of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was caught on film ignoring her state’s hands-free law. And I can remember being surprised when I was on vacation in Scotland in 2004 and I read about soccer star Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United getting pulled over by police for talking on his cellphone while driving. (I couldn’t believe that was actually a law.)

But how will this new rule be enforced among non-celebrity Ontarians? And what about the many other things that can distract someone while they are driving? Should we or shouldn’t we expand the rules to cover other activities — like eating and drinking behind the wheel, applying makeup, and all of the other minor outrages that we witness in cars alongside us?

For now, Ontario joins Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia as the only provinces in Canada to ban hand-held communications devices among drivers.

And while I have never been a fan of the flashing-blue-light-in-the-ear look, or of people babbling into thin air, if the new rule is going to help protect my life and the lives of countless others on the road, I guess I’m willing to look a little goofy.

I just hope that Ontario will ban people from wearing Bluetooths outside their vehicles.