Are Ontario’s distracted driving laws tough enough?

A survey suggests most Canadians believe texting and driving is getting worse despite police crackdowns and extensive public education efforts.

Based on preliminary data from 2016, distracted driving was to blame for 7,435 crashes in Toronto. Of those collisions, eight were fatal, 2,642 resulted in injury and 4,785 caused property damage.

Despite all the numbers, public education, warnings and police crackdown – we still just do not get the message! According to an article from CTV News Kitchener, a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association, suggested that 83 per cent of respondents said they believe texting while driving is a bigger problem now than it was three years ago. 

That’s why it’s time to beg the question: are Ontario’s distracted driving laws tough enough? 

How are Ontario’s distracted driving law defined?

First let’s cover the basics here. 

Ontario’s distracted driving law of the Highway Traffic Act only applies to drivers using hand-held electronic devices.

Using your phone to talk, text, check maps or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving – and they put you and others at risk.

Other activities like eating, reading or typing a destination into a GPS are also dangerous when you’re behind the wheel.

What are the fines related to distracted driving in Ontario?

Starting January 1st, 2019, the fines for distracted driving will be seeing an increase, according to an article from CityNews.

  • Increase from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on a second conviction
  • Up to $3,000 for third or subsequent incidents, 
  • 6 demerit points for multiple offences. 
  • Offenders would also see their licence suspended for three days on a first offence, seven days after two convictions, and 30 days for third and further convictions.

However, officers won’t be able to seize a driver’s licence at the roadside, so a judge would have to order it suspended if the driver is found guilty.

If you do something else that distracts you and hurts your driving– like eating at the wheel, scrolling through touch screen menus to change the radio station or digging through a bag – you could be charged with careless driving under the section 130 of HTA or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle under the Criminal Code of Canada.

You won’t be able to buy your way out of it anymore – you will soon be forced to live with your decisions.

How does this stack up across Canada? 

The changes will make Ontario the first province with an automatic licence suspension for everyone convicted – with three days on the first conviction, seven days on the second and 30 days on the third. All 10 provinces have some form of cell phone or distracted driving legislation in place, but the fines may be different. 

For a full breakdown of all the different distracted driving laws in Canada, you can view this report from CAA. In the meantime, here’s a quick snapshot of two provinces that are clamping down. 

  • Manitoba: They have proposed similar automatic licence suspensions for distracted drivers.
  • Quebec: They toughened their penalties on July 1. Drivers now face a $300 to $600 fine and five demerits, up from an $80 to $100 fine and four demerits. 

If you have been in an accident due to a distracted driver, call Harris Law to set up a free consultation

We represent accident victims and their families. We do not represent insurance companies. We are committed to helping injured people get the support they need immediately following a severe injury and during the long process of recovery.

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