distracted driving

New Harsher Penalties Are in Force for Distracted Drivers in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

When the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2018, stiffer fines and long-lasting penalties for distracted drivers began in Ontario.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted drivers are the leading cause of fatal collisions in Ontario. In 2016, 65 people died in accidents caused by inattentive drivers.

WHAT IS DISTRACTED DRIVING?

Distracted driving is defined as driving a vehicle while engaging in another activity such as texting, reading, using any handheld device (including typing on a GPS or changing a playlist), grooming, eating, and drinking.

Using a cell phone while driving involves three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual requires you to take your eyes off of the roadway. Manual entails taking your hands off of the wheel of the vehicle. Cognitive involves taking your mind off of driving. Even using a phone for a handsfree call provides a distraction to one’s cognition as your mind is taken off of the road.

STATISTICS REGARDING DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distracted driving has severe consequences to both the distracted driver, his/her passengers, and anyone within his/her path.

Statistics demonstrate that a distracted driver can fail to see up to 50% of their immediate environment.

Distracted drivers contribute to 20-30% of all motor vehicle collisions and are three times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident than focused drivers.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000 in Ontario.

ONTARIO’S NEW DISTRACTED DRIVING LAWS

Beginning January 1, 2019, as part of Ontario’s Bill 174 , Ontario will have the toughest penalties for repeat distracted driving convictions.

Drivers who are found to be talking on their phones, texting, dialing, or emailing with a hand-held device will be fined up to $1,000 with a three-day licence suspension, and three demerit points.

Motorists facing a second conviction of distracted driving will face a fine of up to $2,000, a seven-day licence suspension, and six demerit points.

Drivers who have been convicted of driving distracted more than two times will be required to pay a fine of up to $3,000, will lose their licence for 30 days, and six demerit points.

Novice drivers with a graduated licence (G1, G2, M1 or M2) will face even tougher penalties. These drivers will face the same fines as more experienced drivers, in addition to:

  • 30-day licence suspensions for a first conviction;
  • 90-day licence suspensions for a second conviction; and
  • licence revocations and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third conviction.

In addition to the stiffer fines and greater penalties, those convicted of distracted driving can expect their insurance rates to increase.

The only exceptions to the distracted driving rules are when calling 911 in an emergency or when the driver is lawfully parked or safely pulled off of the roadway.

CARELESS AND DANGEROUS DRIVING OFFENCES

If you have endangered other people due to any type of distraction (using a hand-held or hands-free device) while driving, you may be charged with careless driving.

A driver convicted of careless driving faces fines of up to $2,000, six demerit points, and/or a jail term of six months, and a licence suspension of up to two years.

If you are charged with the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle upon consideration of the nature, condition, use of the vehicle, and the amount of traffic at the time, you may face a jail term of up to 10 years for causing bodily harm or up to 14 years for causing death.

TORONTO POLICE DISTRACTED DRIVING BLITZ

Toronto Police launched a two-week-long traffic blitz aimed at distracted drivers, which runs until January 20, 2019.

Officers will be using all types of vehicles to look for distracted drivers, including patrol cars, unmarked vehicles, bicycles, and on foot. Police officers will also be riding TTC buses and streetcars to observe drivers from above.

SIMPLE TIPS TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING

Cell phones are a driver’s biggest distraction when they are behind the wheel. It is strongly recommended that drivers only use hands-free devices while driving to make short phone calls. Even drivers who are using hands-free devices become distracted by a telephone conversation while navigating through traffic.

It is also recommended that drivers turn off their phone or switch it to silent mode before getting into their vehicle. Placing one’s cell phone in the glove compartment or in a bag on the back seat will also help to avoid the temptation to use the phone while driving.

It is also suggested that drivers pre-program any GPS tools or music devices before starting their vehicle. If the need to make a call or return a text arises while driving, find somewhere safe to pull over and park your vehicle.

Drivers should also ensure that their children are comfortable, properly seat belted, and have everything they need prior to starting their vehicles.

If you are facing a distracted driving charge or another driving offence, please call the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.