It has been just over a year since I wrote my last article about the law and penalties around using your cell phone while driving in Manitoba. I thought it was time to take a look back and provide some further information and updates (as the law is constantly changing).
Changes to the law since May 2015
For the most part, the law is pretty much the same as it was a year ago. The definition of a hand-held electronic device is the same, the definition of "use" is the same, and the fine amount is the same. Manitoba Justice's Brown Book is used to specify which category a Highway Traffic Act offence falls under, and what the fine amount is. Section 215.1(2) is listed as a Category D fine with a set amount of $203.80.
What has changed, and it is a significant change, is that you face losing 5 driver safety points instead of 2. You now face 5 demerits for this offence, which would take you 5 years to earn back. This change in the law came into place on July 1, 2015. Here's a news article about it from the CBC, Distracted drivers hit with more demerits in Manitoba July 1. Which means your licence can cost a lot more and you could lose the discount on your vehicle registration as well. The Government of Manitoba is really trying to crack down on distracted driving, but I think a lot of us still see people texting on their phones as they are stopped at a read light, or holding their phone and talking as they change lanes without signalling. Making punishments tougher doesn't always deter people.
Comments From Original Post
There were a lot of great comments and questions on the original post. I am just going to summarize them here for everyone:
- If you have a wallet phone case, can you open your wallet while driving? If you view the phone's screen (even if the screen is not turned on), that is considered using your device and it is illegal. Best advice, leave your phone out of arm's reach.
- Can I mount my phone on my dashboard and use it as a GPS? No, you cannot. It would be legal to purchase a separate GPS device that would not be defined as a handheld electronic device under the Highway Traffic Act, but you cannot look at your phone's screen for directions while you are operating your vehicle. There are exceptions to use a cell phone while driving if you can use it hands free (like a Bluetooth headset) but the exceptions are only for use as a telephone and not a GPS unit.
- Can I talk on my phone using headphones with a built in microphone? Yes, as long as you only have one ear bud in your ear (you can never operate a vehicle with both in your ear legally) and you do not use your hands to access the phone at all.
- Can I use my phone to record the police after I am safely pulled over? This is tricky because the law says you cannot use your device while on a roadway. So even if you are pulled over on the side of the road and parked, you cannot legally use your phone at that point. If you are no longer on a roadway and the vehicle is in park and stationary, you can use your phone at that point. Also, if you exit your vehicle, then you would be allowed to use your phone. How you choose to use your phone is up to you.
- Cell Phones and Driving in Manitoba (MichaelDyck.ca)
- Forced to Give Up Your Phone Password (MichaelDyck.ca)
- New Tougher Driving Laws for Manitoba (MichaelDyck.ca)
- Using a Cell Phone While Driving (TomRees.ca)
About the author
Michael Dyck is a partner at Rees & Dyck Criminal Defence. He represents clients primarily from Winnipeg, Steinbach, and rural Manitoba. He has extensive experience helping people charged with criminal offences and focuses on building legal strategy with clients. To read more of his articles, please visit his partner's website TomRees.ca.