What’s Happening with the New Careless Driving Penalties?

One person is killed on the road in Ontario every 17 hours, and the government has had enough.

Ontario is planning newer and stricter penalties on careless driving resulting in death, including fines between $2,000 and $50,000, five-year license suspension, six demerit points, and two years of jail time. Distracted drivers also face increased penalties – up to $3,000 for some repeat convictions. Even drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians will see fines go up – the penalty is doubled to $1,000.

What’s Changed?

Transport Minister Steven Del Duca says these new, more severe measures will make Ontario the toughest province in Canada on repeat offenders for careless and distracted driving. But what counts as careless or distracted driving?

Distracted driving includes the use of nearly any device that requires tactile input or visual observation. If you need to touch or look at the device to use it, it’s probably not allowed. Exceptions include devices in or on your dash, although this is limited to navigational and communications purposes. MP3 players are a gray area; they are permitted so long as they are secured in place, and are not operated manually by the driver.

Careless driving is more ambiguous. Like distracted driving, there need not be a collision. The Highway Traffic Act defines careless driving as driving a vehicle “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.” This opens your actions up to the police officer’s judgment.

To stay safe from both careless and reckless driving, (as well as other dangerous habits) you need to address your own driving and become aware of the actions of others.

Before you begin any trip, make sure the interior of your vehicle is tidy. There should be no loose electronics in the cabin, including your phone. Tuck anything with a screen into a bag, glove box, or CD well. This prevents the temptation of glancing away from the road when you see or hear a new notification, and it has the added benefit of ensuring that your phone doesn’t go flying in a collision.

Make sure that everything in the cabin is where you want it to be before you set off, including your choice of music. Once the car is moving, you shouldn’t find any reason to look away from the road. If you have passengers, it’s okay to let them control the music or adjust the GPS, but they should still keep any screens aimed away from you if possible to avoid distraction.

Once on the road, you need to pull over safely in order to make any unforeseen adjustments, send messages, or answer the phone if you don’t have a proper hands-free system. Equally importantly, you should constantly monitor your surroundings to watch for other drivers who might not be as diligent as you.

Distracted drivers share many indicators with drunk drivers: watch out for cars that have trouble staying in their lane, or adhering to a constant speed. They may also brake at times that seem random. If you do see someone engaging in distracting activities while behind the wheel, give that car a wide berth even if they seem otherwise in control. The danger of distracted and careless drivers is in their unpredictability, so don’t take any chances.

Even if you do everything within your power to stay safe on the road, distracted or careless drivers can change your life in a second. Get in touch with our expert lawyers to find out what kind of compensation you deserve, or come in for a free consultation.