A new Ontario law banning the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving will be delayed until late October, as the Ministry of Transportation finalizes some exemptions to the regulations.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced Wednesday that the ban will now take effect on Oct. 26.

The ministry also said that drivers can expect a three-month education period after the law comes into effect, which calls for police to show some leniency.

Police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010.

Emergency response personnel, including police, fire and paramedic services were already permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices and view display screens under the new regulations.

The Ministry announced Wednesday that it will also allow a three-year phase-out period for the use of commercial two-way radios among drivers in transport-related industries, such as taxis, school buses and highway maintenance.

The phase-out period will allow for hands-free technologies to be developed for these industries, the ministry said.

The law will not apply to mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices, which will be exempt for commercial and public-service vehicle drivers. Hand-mikes and portable radios may be used in a hands-free mode.

Once the law is in place, drivers who are caught texting, typing, emailing, dialing or talking on a hand-held device could face a fine of up to $500. There are no demerit points for a conviction.

Drivers are also prohibited from using portable video games and DVD players, but they can still use their cellphones to call 911.

Under the law, the use of hands-free devices is still permitted.

Research has shown that using a hand-held communication device dramatically increases a driver's risk of being involved in a crash or near-crash.

A recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting or dialing while driving resulted in a 2.8 times greater risk of a crash or near crash. Among truck drivers, dialling a cellphone increased risk 5.9 times, while text messaging increased risk 23.2 times.

Ontario will join Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia with its ban, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba are considering similar legislation.