Ontario’s New Distracted Driving Penalties

It’s common knowledge that distracted driving poses a danger to everyone on the road, leading to an increased likelihood of becoming involved in an automobile accident. In fact, the government of Ontario says deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000, and that as of 2013, one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every 30 minutes. Furthermore, a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road. The Ontario government has responded to these risks by implementing harsh penalties for distracted drivers. The laws came into effect on January 1, and we think it’s worth sharing the changes with our readers.

What is distracted driving?

The first thing that may come to mind when one hears the term “distracted driving” might be someone looking at their cell phone while driving. While that certainly counts, the law encompasses a wider range of behaviours under the definition. In Ontario, distracted driving includes,

  • use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial – you can only touch a device to call 911 in an emergency
  • use a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console
  • view display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video
  • program a GPS device, except by voice commands

What can you do? Drivers are free to use hands-free wireless devices with an earpiece or lapel microphone. Drivers can also view GPS screens so long as they are built into a vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted to a dashboard. Interestingly enough, a number of activities that are distracting are not covered under the distracted driving laws, including eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading, and reaching for objects. However, these activities can lead to charges of careless or dangerous driving.

Stiffer penalties

As of January 1, 2019, people convicted of distracted driving face serious consequences. For a first conviction, drivers will face a $615-$1,000, three demerit points, and a three-day license suspension. Second convictions include penalties of a $615-$2,000 fine, six demerit points, and a seven-day license suspension. For third and further convictions, penalties include a fine of $615-$3,000, six demerit points, and a 30-day license suspension.

Novice drivers will not lose demerit points, but they will face a 30-day license suspension for a first conviction, a 90-day license suspension. Upon a third conviction they may face removal from the Graduated Licensing System.

Careless driving

Penalties are even more severe if a driver is convicted of careless driving by endangering other people because of any kind of distraction. If convicted of this offence, drivers may receive six demerit points, a fine of up to $2,000, a jail term of six months, and a license suspension of up to two years.

How to avoid distracted driving

If your phone is a distraction to you, the best thing you can do is put it out of site, or at the very least turn it to silent or airplane mode before driving. Some phones have automated messages to let others know they are driving and will reply when they have arrived at their destination. In some situations you may also ask for a passenger to take a call or respond to a message for you.

If you find yourself involved in an accident with a distracted driver, please reach out to the experienced team at Derfel Injury Law. Texting and driving claims are complicated and require an experienced team of lawyers to navigate. We have a deep and thorough understanding of the law as it relates to distracted driving and how to sue for damages and loss after an accident. After hiring Derfel Injury Law you can rest easy by knowing you have a team working hard to get you maximum compensation. We can be reached by phone at 416.847.3580 or online at your convenience.