Come 2013, a three-year extension exempting school bus and other commercial drivers from complying with a ban in Ontario on hand-held mobile communications devices while behind the wheel is set to expire, but the Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) says another five-year extension is necessary to allow technology to catch up and school bus operators to implement alternative solutions.
The law, passed in October 2009, applies to all motorists and includes the practices of talking, texting and emailing on hand-held cell phones and viewing hand-held electronic entertainment devices such as laptops and DVD players. Additionally, push-to-talk devices such as two-way radios used by school bus drivers also fall under the ban. The only exemptions are calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency, when the driver is pulled off the roadway and safely parked or for emergency responders.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation granted commercial operators a three-year extension before they must complete phase out two way radios to "help these businesses stay competitive." That extension at the end of this year.
OSBA said the Ministry is accepting public feedback on the five-year extension through May 30, 2012
The Ministry has published information that the new law will not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices, which will be exempt for commercial and public service vehicle drivers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.
Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may also be used in a hands-free mode. The Ministry also said that drivers could use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.