The Manitoba Cell Phone Ban

by Jordan Richardson on September 29, 2010

Police in the province of Manitoba have been seriously cracking down on cell phone use while driving. The province banned cell phone use while driving on July 15.

According to reports, police, as of August 31, have issued a total of 290 tickets. 123 tickets were handed out the day the law went into effect, so it’s clear the Manitoba police have been trying to send a message about the seriousness of the ban. The fine is set at $199.80 at this point and time, which means that the total amount of fines collected as of August 31 is $57,942.

Central traffic units in Manitoba have been dedicating entire shifts to cracking down on the cell phone ban. They’ve even dedicated what could be considered “special enforcement blitzes” to track and fine the most blatant offences.

“There’s still some people out there who are doing it very blatantly,” Staff Sgt. Mark Hodgson said. “We’re looking for the most obvious or blatant offences.”

The obvious/blatant offences are, of course, easy to track for police. Other cases are a little bit more complicated, as motorists are beginning to hide their cell phones while they drive. “They’re keeping it down or trying to disguise the function they’re doing,” Hodgson said. “They’re being a lot more surreptitious about it.”

Hodgson says that the onset of the cell phone ban is similar to the onset of seatbelt laws. At first, people attempted to circumvent the seatbelt laws, but with further information and understanding came further compliance with the law. Studies have shown that cell phone use while driving puts motorists at greater risk, but there are a few other “studies” that appear to take different angles and play with semantics.

Even so, the bulk of the information – and indeed the bulk of conventional wisdom – suggests that cell phone use while driving can lead to dangerous consequences. The cell phone bans are not catch-alls, of course, and they will not fully curb crashes in traffic nor will they eliminate all distractions behind the wheel. But they do represent a step in the right direction.

After the initial influx of ticketing, Manitoba police have seen week-to-week number of about 28 tickets. It’s unclear as to how many of the tickets have been appealed thus far.

As Manitoba police continue to zone in on cell phone use behind the wheel, compliance to the law should follow accordingly. Resistance is to be expected, as resistance to other similar public safety laws has been the case since the beginning of time. But with more enforcement and more information, these laws will become part of the public understanding.

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