On October 26, 2009, amendments to the Highway Traffic Act (“HTA”) which prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device will come into force. Also prohibited under these amendments is the operation of a vehicle with the display screen of a television, computer or other device that is visible to the driver.
These amendments do not apply to drivers of an ambulance, fire department or police department vehicle. Other classes of persons or vehicles may be exempt from the operation of these amendments through Regulations to the HTA.
The amendments will make it an offence under the HTA for drivers to hold a cellular phone or send text messages or emails while driving a motor vehicle. The amendments however permit the use of a communication device during the operation of a motor vehicle if the communication device is on a “hands free” mode. The amendments also permit GPS devices and logistical transportation tracking systems to be visible to the driver of a motor vehicle.
Although the HTA imposes liability on drivers, there is a possibility that an employer may be held vicariously liable for a breach of the HTA or from an accident caused by an employee operating a motor vehicle while holding a cellular phone or sending/reading an email. As such, these amendments may have implications on employers who employ drivers — such as employers in the construction and transportation and logistics industries.
As such, employers who employ drivers ought to establish and enforce clear policies with respect to the use of wireless communication devices while driving a motor vehicle. These policies should communicate to employees the circumstances surrounding acceptable and restricted use of wireless communication devices. The policies should also communicate consequences to the employee if s/he breaches the policy.
Please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer if you have any questions with respect to these amendments and if you require assistance in developing a policy for your employees.