What Is a Legal Car Phone?

girl talking on hands free deviceMost people do not want to break the law but are uncertain how to legally use a cellular phone while driving. The common belief is that drivers cannot hold the phone. This misunderstanding has led to some individuals receiving Violation Tickets for putting the phone in the cup holder or passenger seat and activating the speaker.

According to s. 214.1 of the Motor Vehicle Act:

An “electronic device” is a “hand-held cellular telephone or another hand-held electronic device that includes a telephone function”.

Prohibited “use” includes any one or more of the following:

(a) holding the device in a position in which it may be used;

(b) operating one or more of the device’s functions;

(c) communicating orally by means of the device with another person or another device;

(d) taking another action that is set out in the regulations by means of, with or in relation to an electronic device.

Section 214.2  (1) states a person must not use an electronic device while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway.


Although, s. 214.2 does not apply to a person who uses an electronic device:

(a) while operating a motor vehicle that is safely parked off the roadway or lawfully parked on the roadway and is not impeding traffic,

(b) to call or send a message to a police force, fire department or ambulance service about an emergency, or

(c) that is configured and equipped to allow hands-free use in a telephone function, is used in a hands-free manner and is used in accordance with the regulations, if any.

Read alone, the Act appears to allow driving with a cellular phone if the operator is not holding the device and is operated with the hands free function. However, further information is found in the Use Of Electronic Devices While Driving Regulation.


Section 4 states:

Subject to sections 7 (1) (a) and 8 (3), an electronic device listed in subsection (2) must be installed

(a) so that it is securely fixed to the motor vehicle, and

(b) in a manner that does not obstruct the driver’s view of the front or sides of the motor vehicle or interfere with the safety or operating equipment of the motor vehicle.


Section 7 states:

(1) Subject to subsection (2), a person may use an electronic device in a hands-free telephone function while driving or operating a motor vehicle on a highway, if the device

(a) is installed in accordance with section 4 and within easy reach of the driver’s seat, or worn securely on the person’s body,

(b) is voice-activated or requires only one touch in order to initiate, accept or end a call, and

(c) in the case of a device that includes an earpiece, the earpiece is worn only in one ear.

(2) Subsection (1) (c) does not apply to a person who is driving or operating a motorcycle on a highway.


In short, to avoid receiving a Violation Ticket while using a cellular phone and operating a motor vehicle, a driver:

1.  Cannot hold the phone in their hand;
2.  If they hold the phone, they must be parked on the roadside out of traffic or off the road completely;
3.  If they are not parked, then they can only call emergency services to report an  emergency;
4.  To drive and talk they must be using the phone in hands free mode;
5.  The phone must be fixed to the inside of the car;
6.  The phone cannot be located in a position where it can impede the driver’s vision;
7.  The phone must be within easy reach or secured in a case to the operator;
8.  The phone must be voice activated or dial/answer/hang up with one touch;
9.  The driver is limited to wearing an ear piece to one ear;
10. Motorcycle riders are not limited to one ear


Distracted driving has now exceeding impaired driving in causing injury to innocent people. Consequently, the fine is $167 and after October 20, 2014, will warrant three points on your licence if convicted. Officials are considering increasing the fine to align with the Province of Ontario where penalties are closer to $1,000.

As a warning, using cellular phones is a slippery slope to texting or sending email while on the road. According to ICBC, the recent increase in rates is directly associated to the loss attributed to distracted driving. It is up to each of us to pass the message on to our friends and family to eliminate the use of electronic devices while travelling in our automobiles. Remember: Stay safe.

Note: New drivers restricted under an ‘L’ or ‘N’ are prohibited to use a phone while driving.

Daryl Brown
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