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Toronto Mayor Ford accused again of using cellphone while driving

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and members of the Executive Committee listen to a long list of deputations from Toronto citizens at City Hall on Sept. 19, 2011.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

After admitting to breaking the law two months ago, Mayor Rob Ford vowed to give up talking on his mobile while driving. But a new allegation has surfaced accusing him of just that.

Sarah Barrett, a semi-retired small business owner, said she saw Mayor Ford driving and talking on his cell phone on Monday.

"There was no question that it was Rob Ford," said Ms. Barrett. "How could you not recognize him? And he had his phone on his ear."

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It was between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., near Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue, when she said she first saw him in his bronze Chevrolet minivan with the licence plate "ROB FORD."

Both Ms. Barrett and Mr. Ford were driving westbound, she said; she started off in the left lane, he was in the right. Later, he went behind her vehicle and then pulled ahead. Before that, she saw him on his cellphone and tried to catch up, to tell him to stop. Later, she could see him punching the buttons, she said, likely texting or dialling.

"Whether he was texting or whether he was dialling, of course I wouldn't know that. But he was doing something with the keypad where he was looking down," she said.

The Mayor's press secretary did not deny that Mr. Ford was talking on his phone and could not confirm whether he was driving at the time. Adrienne Batra did say, however, that Mr. Ford has been using his Chevy Uplander's hands-free OnStar system more frequently since July, when a Toronto mother accused the mayor of talking on the phone and giving her and her six-year-old daughter the finger in traffic.

"He has done that in the past," said Ms. Batra, of the mayor's propensity for talking and driving. "But my understanding is the mayor has been quite disciplined about using his OnStar."

It's illegal in Ontario to use handheld cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. Fines can be as high as $500, although drivers are permitted to use the gadgets if they employ headsets and voice dialling.

Ms. Barrett, who lives in Midtown and was picking up her daughter-in-law from a downtown hospital, said seeing the mayor use his phone was frustrating. She uses a Bluetooth to ensure she can take calls and obey the law while driving, she said.

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"Why does he think that he can do it, when all the rest of us aren't supposed to do it?" she said. "He should do what everybody does. He's not above the law, and he's not above the ordinary, he's just an ordinary guy."

She said she's disappointed she was unable to take a photo of Mr. Ford or pull up beside him to tell him to stop what he was doing.

"I was just wishing I could have gone, 'Yoo-hoo, no phone,' and then waited for him to give me the finger," she said, referencing an incident in July when the mayor was accused of making a gesture at a mother and child who suggested he shouldn't use his phone while driving.

If he denies the allegation, she'll make a complaint with the police, Ms. Barrett said.

With files from Patrick White

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