As of July 1 in Quebec, the grace period came to an end regarding legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. If you are caught now, it’s a $115 dollar fine and three demerit points off your licence.

Earlier this year, Quebec and Nova Scotia passed a cellphone law. They become the second and third Canadian provinces after Newfoundland and Labrador to ban hand-held cell phones in vehicles.

Ontario, B.C and New Brunswick, meanwhile, are “looking” at such a law.

In the U.S., July 1 also marked the first day of a new ban on “drive and chat” in the car-crazy state of California and in Washington. 

There are 23-million licensed drivers in California and the Public Policy Institute of California is predicting that 300 lives could be saved in the first year of this legislation.

There are now only seven states with a full ban on cellphone use. Three others are debating a ban and 16 others have partial bans. A study by Carnegie-Mellon University released in March of this year said that any noise in a car reduces brain activity associated with driving by 37 per cent. The American Psychological Association reported that talking on a cellphone reduced brain activity related to driving by 50 per cent.

And other studies show that using hands-free technology is not much better.

Is all this for our own good? Well, for the cynics out there, the state of New York generated $27 million dollars in fines in the first three years of its cellphone ban law.

But Quebec road safety expert Etienne Blais told CTV News that the added distraction leads to an increase in collision risk.

“It’s quite the same as driving while intoxicated by alcohol or even speeding,” said Blais.  Cellphone use while driving is on the rise, according to an August 2007 survey conducted by the Canadian Traffic Injury Research Foundation. That study said that 37 per cent of drivers admit to using their cellphones while driving in 2007, compared to just over 20 per cent in 2001. And what are other nations doing? Well, 46 nations have bans in effect including high-tech countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore the U.K. , Ireland and Israel. By the way, in most jurisdictions, the law applies to those who are visiting … so be careful where you use your cell. 

Paul’s Web site of the week:  Canada Day may be over but you can still suggest and vote for the thing you believe makes Canada, well, Canadian.

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