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OPP issue 470 fines during first month of cellphone ban law

ORILLIA, Ont. - During the first month of Ontario's new distracted driver law provincial police issued 470 charges to people caught breaking the rules.

ORILLIA, Ont. - During the first month of Ontario's new distracted driver law provincial police issued 470 charges to people caught breaking the rules.

The law, which bans drivers from using hand-held devices such as cellphones and looking at display screens such as laptops, came into effect on Oct. 26.

But a three-month grace period ended in January, and starting Feb. 1 drivers caught breaking the law were subject to a $155 fine.

Between Feb. 1 and 28 Ontario Provincial Police laid 470 charges and issued 468 warnings, which officers can give on a discretionary basis.

Those numbers don't include fines or warnings issued by local police forces around the province.

Insp. Dave Ross says police have already noticed the law has been making a difference, and the provincial police are hoping it will translate into safer roads.

"We've noticed a marked decline in the number of drivers using handheld devices both during the education period and since we started more actively enforcing the legislation on the first of February," he said.

The Greater Toronto Area, the province's most populous region, saw the most fines issued during February at 155.

Provincial police issued 60 charges in the central region, 58 charges in the east region and 50 charges in the west region.

In the northeast region police handed out 34 fines and in the northwest region police handed out 22 fines.

In addition the highway safety division, which has officers assigned on specialized traffic units throughout the province, laid 91 charges during that time.

If a driver challenges the ticket in court the judge has the discretion to knock the fine down to as low as $60 or boost it to up to $500.

The law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held devices. Calls to 911 are an exception. It is also illegal for drivers to look at display screens unrelated to driving such as laptops or DVD players.

During the educational grace period police issued more than 3,300 warnings.

 
 
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