Quebec distracted driving law 2018: what it means

I spent some time to figure out what’s in the new Quebec distracted driving law. Basically, I wanted to know if my current setup is allowed. My smartphone is in a holder on the air vent. I run Waze and listen to podcasts. I usually never have to press any buttons, unless I want to play a new podcast.

Here’s what I discovered

First, let’s start with a summary on the Transport Quebec website. It is a long sentence with a few commas. See if you can figure it out.

It is prohibited for any driver of a road vehicle, cyclist, or user of a motorized mobility aid to use a cell phone or any other portable device designed to transmit or receive information or to be used for entertainment purposes, or to use a display screen. Some exceptions are allowed.

II est interdit à tout conducteur d’un véhicule routier, à tout cycliste et à tout utilisateur d’une aide à la mobilité motorisée qui circule sur la chaussée de faire usage d’un téléphone cellulaire ou de tout autre appareil portatif conçu pour transmettre ou recevoir des informations ou pour être utilisé à des fins de divertissement, ou de faire usage d’un écran d’affichage. Certaines exceptions sont prévues.


If I was re-writing it and cutting out all the extra words, I would write: “A driver cannot use a cell phone or use a display screen.”
I understand what a cell phone is. But what is a “display screen”? Do they mean a tablet? I assume so. They don’t want people watching movies while driving. But do they also mean the car’s built-in screen, that allows you to pick a radio station on some cars? It’s not clear. I reviewed Bill 165 and “display screen” is not defined.
What about the “some exceptions are allowed” phrase. I had to check the law to see what these exceptions are. Below is the relevant article of the law. All bolding below is mine.
“443.1. Every driver of a road vehicle and every cyclist are prohibited from using a portable electronic device or a display screen, except in the following cases:

I’m not sure if “portable” applies only to “electronic device” or to “display screen” also. This is an important point. Some cars have built-in display screens to pick a radio station or even turn on the air conditioning. I assume built-in display screens are not affected by the law if for no other reason that they are generally boring and how could the government make it illegal to turn on the radio while driving.

Let’s continue. Here is the first exception to the prohibition:
    • (1) the driver of the road vehicle sends or receives telephone calls using a hands-free device;

So far so good. Obviously if you say “Okay Google, Call Mary” then you aren’t interacting with a screen. Makes sense. The next exception has four parts to it (a to d) and you must comply with all four parts to benefit from the exception.

    • (2) the driver of the road vehicle or the cyclist consults the information displayed on a display screen, including that of a portable electronic device, or activates a screen function if the screen
      • (a) displays only such information as is relevant to driving or riding the vehicle or related to the operation of its usual equipment;
      • (b) is integrated into the vehicle or mounted on a bracket, whether detachable or not, attached to the vehicle;

Part “a” seems to be the Waze exception. You are allowed to “consult” (ie, look at) your GPS navigation from time to time or “activate” (ie, press the app button) a screen function.

Part “b” is the phone holder exception. You can use your smartphone if the phone is in a phone holder. If you don’t have one, you should really get one. There’s no more excuse. A $1.50 phone holder from Dollarama will save you hundreds of dollars in tickets.
      • (c) is placed so as not to obstruct the driver’s or cyclist’s view, interfere with driving or riding, or prevent the operation of equipment or reduce its efficiency and in a manner that does not present a risk of injury in an accident; and
      • (d) is positioned and designed in such a way that the driver of the road vehicle or cyclist can operate and consult it easily.

Part “c” says don’t put the cell phone somewhere that is blocking your view of the road. Duh.

Part “d” says don’t put your cell phone in that little space near the cigarette lighter where you won’t be able to easily see your GPS navigation. Parts “a” to “d” are inclusive. Meaning you need to follow all of them.

What does this all mean?

Based on my understanding of the text, here is what the law is trying to get everyone who uses a cell phone to do:
  1. Put your iPhone/smartphone in a phone holder on the vent, so that it is easy to glance at and doesn’t block your view of the road.
  2. Do not hold the phone in your hand while driving.
  3. You can press buttons to “activate” an app, such as Waze, Google Maps, or your music app, for instance.
  4. Do not text while driving. You cannot text with your hands under any circumstances — even if the phone is in a cradle. Period. If you want to send a message, you’d better figure out how to use voice commands like “Okay, Google… Send a message to Mary.”
This is my interpretation of article 443.1 of Bill 165. Please comment below if you disagree or have any experience with this.
phone holder
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