08/26/2016 04:59 EDT | Updated 08/27/2017 01:12 EDT

Ottawa says it won't criminalize cellphone use at the wheel

OTTAWA — The federal government is not considering making cellphone use at the wheel a criminal offence.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Thursday provincial laws already exist to crack down on the dangerous practice.

Quebec coroner Michel Ferland recently suggested Ottawa amend the Criminal Code to make it a crime if a motorist causes injuries or death while using a cellphone.

Quebec's new transport minister, Laurent Lessard, said Wednesday that Ottawa should study the possibility of criminalizing cellphone use at the wheel and that he intended to discuss the matter with his federal counterpart, Marc Garneau.

Garneau was not available for an interview Thursday and referred the request to the justice minister.

"Using a handheld cellphone while driving, or texting while driving, can already be prosecuted under existing provisions of the Criminal Code when this behaviour becomes 'dangerous driving','' Joanne Ghiz, a spokeswoman for Wilson-Raybould, said in an email.

"We thank the provinces and territories for their leadership on this issue. Road safety is a serious public safety concern and our government is committed to ensuring the safety of our roads and highways."