In-car use of cell phones to be banned Jan. 1

As of early next year, the use of cell phones and other handheld devices will be banned in the Northwest Territories.

The NWT Legislature passed the distracted driving bill last week, following in the ranks of seven other Canadian provinces.

According to Earl Blacklock, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, the number of NWT vehicle operators using their cell phones at any given time on the road is not as high as the rest of Canada, but the Government wants to prevent it from increasing.

“We know that 2 per cent of people at any one time are on their phones,” said Blacklock.

“We want to reduce that.”

He estimated that the rest of Canada stood around the 3 per cent mark.

“We don’t want it to get that bad,” he said.

The GNWT has already kick-started an information campaign to inform the public of  the upcoming ban and encourage distraction-free driving in the territory.

Tablets, mp3 players, walkie talkies and other hand-held devices will all be a part of the ban, but Blacklock said that a majority of the charges will be coming from the use of cell phones.

“That’s the principal issue,” he said. “These are distractions. Your mind cannot multitask.”

“You may think that you are driving, but for the period you are texting you are not driving your car, your car is driving you.”

The legislation allows people to use hands-free devices in a hands-free manner, but anyone caught using a hand-held device while driving may be fined $100 and have three demerit points taken off of their license.

The amended Motor Vehicles Act is set to take effect on Jan. 1.