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From 2002: Should Canada ban drivers from using cellphones?

Drivers were making calls while behind the wheel, but only one province was making the call to restrict them from doing so.

'It's become a common sight on Canada's roads — driving while on a cellphone'

What should be done about cellphone-using drivers?

19 years ago
2:41
In September 2002, Canada's transportation ministers discussed the dangers of drivers using cellphones. 2:41

Drivers were making calls while behind the wheel, but only one province was making the call to restrict them from doing so.

That was the case back in September 2002, when Canada's transportation ministers discussed the issue of cellphones and distracted driving at a meeting in Winnipeg.

"It's become a common sight on Canada's roads — driving while on a cellphone," reporter Jo Lynn Sheane told viewers on The National on Sept. 20, 2002.

The trend hadn't gone unnoticed by legislators, though there was no consensus among them as to how to deal with the issue.

Lots of drivers on phones

A driver is seen holding a cellphone to her ear when speaking to a CBC reporter in Winnipeg in September 2002. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Canada's federal and provincial transportation ministers agree it's wrong, but that's where the agreement ends," said Sheane, who was covering the meeting in Winnipeg..

"Turns out, Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province pressing ahead with legislation."

Walter Noel, the government services minister in Newfoundland and Labrador, said "our province feels that the case is clear," adding that a majority of people in his province believed "that this is a problem that we should act on."

(And the province would be the first in Canada to enact a ban on using a handheld cellphone while driving, passing legislation to do that by the end of 2002.)

Disagreement about level of danger

Federal Transport Minister David Collenette wasn't swayed by arguments that cellphone use was less dangerous for drivers than other forms of distraction. (The National/CBC Archives)

Sheane said "other provinces say their research shows that cellphones are not as dangerous as other distractions."

Yet David Collenette, the federal minister of transport, wasn't swayed by those arguments.

"If you have tried it — and most of us have made cellphone calls while behind the wheel — you know that is much more distracting than grabbing a sandwich or a cup of coffee."

But Collenette said it was an issue that fell under provincial jurisdiction.

Peter Barnes of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said the wireless industry favoured seeing Canadian provinces stick with the legislation already in place that targeted distracted driving.

"We think that the proper way to go at this is to continue to apply the existing legislation," said Barnes.

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