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Drivers still glued to handheld devices a week after ban: Ottawa police

More than a week after the province banned drivers from using handhelddevices while behind the wheel, Ottawa police are still seeing driversuse cell phones, BlackBerry-type devices and even playing video games.

More than a week after the province banned drivers from using handheld devices while behind the wheel, Ottawa police are still seeing drivers use cell phones, BlackBerry-type devices and even playing video games.

So far, there has only been “a very slight difference” in the number of people using devices behind the wheel, said Sgt. Al Ferris with the Ottawa Police Traffic Escort Unit, who suggested that one of the reasons is because there is no deterrent.

Although the ban took effect Oct. 26, Ottawa police have been giving out warnings to people seen using — or even just holding — handheld wireless devices or entertainment units behind the wheel.

The “warning phase” continues through Jan. 31, said Ferris. “But in the event there is a serious injury or death that results directly from the use of these devices, the provincial court has allowed us to lay charges.”

Not everyone is flouting the law.

“We are noticing that there are more drivers who are now pulling off to the side of the road to use their cell phones,” he said.

Although the fines begin Feb. 1, people aren’t getting off completely scot-free in the meantime.

“If we stop someone, all the information is gathered and entered into a system,” said Ferris. “And if the person is stopped again, they might lose the privilege of getting off with just a warning because they’ve been stopped before.”

 
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