Can Drivers in Canada Be Fined $1,500 If a Passenger Uses a Cellphone?

A website with a penchant for attention-grabbing headlines about life in Canada struck again in July 2020.

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Claim

As of July 2020, a new law in Canada meant motorists could be convicted and fined $1,500 if one of their passengers used a cellphone.

Rating

Origin

In the summer of 2020, readers inquired about the accuracy of a blog post that claimed drivers in Canada would soon be liable for a $1,500 fine if one of their passengers was caught using a cellphone. On July 5, the website Canada Eh? published an article with the headline, “Canadians Can Be Fined $1,500 If Their Passager [sic] is Using a Mobile Phone.” The post reported:

Distracted driving causes more deaths in Canada than impaired driving. It’s why every province and territory has laws against driving while operating a cell phone. “Tell your passengers to stay off their phones while you are driving.” You can get fined in Canada 1,500 even if your passenger is using mobile phone, starting next week. “Mobile phones, even when held by a passenger, can be a dangerous distraction for the driver.” Starting mext [sic] week being distracted by a screen held by a passenger attracts a penalty of $1,500 and three demerit points.

We checked legislation on distracted driving in every Canadian province and territory: British Columbia; Alberta; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario; Québec; New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; Prince Edward Island; Newfoundland and Labrador; Yukon; the Northwest Territories; and Nunavut.

Each law prohibits distracted driving in general and the use by motorists of cellphones and other hand-held devices in particular, but none of them holds drivers culpable or liable for the use of a cellphone by one of their passengers.

A spokesperson for Transport Canada, the national government department that helps to coordinate and oversee regional traffic safety policies, confirmed for Snopes that the department was not aware of any plans currently underway to introduce a new offense and $1,500 fine for drivers whose passengers are caught using cellphones. The blog post’s key claim was therefore false. 

Canada Eh? has a penchant for publishing attention-grabbing and misleading articles about life in Canada. In June 2019, the website falsely claimed that a crackdown on cannabis use and public drinking was imminent “in every province,” and earlier that year Canada Eh? published an inaccurate and partially plagiarized article about boil water notices throughout the country. 

Plagiarism again played a role in the July 2020 post about distracted driving. Elements of the article were copied and pasted from a January 2020 Daily Mail report about distracted driving in Australia, another blog post about fines in Australia, and a 2018 blog post about distracted driving laws in Canada.

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Sources

Canada-Eh.info.  “Canadians Can Be Fined $1,500 If Their [Passenger] is Using a Mobile Phone.”
    5 July 2020. 

Queen’s Printer (British Columbia).  “Motor Vehicle Act (British Columbia) — Chapter 318.”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Queen’s Printer (Alberta).  “Traffic Safety Act (Alberta).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Publications Saskatchewan.  “Traffic Safety Act (Saskatchewan).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Statutes of Manitoba.  “The Highway Traffic Act (Manitoba).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Revised Statutes of Ontario.  “The Highway Traffic Act (Ontario).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Publications Québec.  “Highway Safety Code (Québec).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Justice and Office of the Attorney General (New Brunswick).  “Motor Vehicle Act (New Brunswick).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Nova Scotia General Assembly.  “An Act Respecting Highways and Traffic Safety.”
    2018 (Accessed 4 August 2020).  

Legislative Counsel Office, Government of Prince Edward Island.  “Highway Traffic Act (Prince Edward Island).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020. 

Queen’s Printer (Newfoundland and Labrador).  “Highway Traffic Act (Newfoundland and Labrador).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Legislative Counsel Office, Government of Yukon.  “Motor Vehicles Act (Yukon).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Revised Statutes of the Northwest Territories.  “Motor Vehicles Act (Northwest Territories).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

The Statutes of Nunavut.  “Traffic Safety Act (Nunavut).”
    Accessed 4 August 2020.

Mac Guill, Dan.  “Is Canada About to Crack Down on Cannabis Use, Public Drinking?”
    Snopes.com.  14 June 2019.

Mac Guill, Dan.  “Was Canada Under an E. Coli-Related Boil Water Notice in the Spring of 2019?”
    Snopes.com.  17 May 2019.