Distracted Driving: Ontario Introducing Tougher Penalties

by Kris Bonn

It won’t be long before picking up your phone while driving, even if stopped at a red light, will cost you even more money.

On September 20, 2017, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced that the Liberal government will introduce legislation to increase the fines for distracted driving from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on second conviction, and up to $3,000 for a third or subsequent conviction as well as six demerit points for multiple offences.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

These harsher penalties for distracted driving are very much needed. Distracted driving is still an epidemic and we must all appreciate and understand the dangers it poses:

  1. Texting and driving makes an accident 23 times more likely.
  2. Dialling your phone increases your chances of an accident by.1 in 5 drivers confess to surfing the web while driving.
  3. 1 in 5 drivers confess to surfing the web while driving.
  4. Smartphones are the most common form of distraction for drivers.
  5. Making even the most basic text takes a minimum of 5 seconds — equal to travelling the distance of a football field without looking at the road.

I fear that we will continue to see people on their phones while driving despite the harsher penalties. That is, until texting while driving becomes as socially unacceptable as driving under the influence.

Distracted Driving Laws Apply to Red Lights

Don’t think that you are safe from conviction if you are stopped at a red light. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s conviction in the 2013 decision of R. v. Kazemi. In this case, Ms. Kazemi was convicted of distracted driving even though the Court accepted the facts that she had only picked her cell phone off the floor and was only holding it for less than 5 seconds before putting it down. At all times her vehicle was stopped for the red light.

There is zero tolerance in the law, let’s make sure we all follow the law and stay off our phones and other devices when in our cars.

New Distracted Driving Laws

The new legislation will include some other important changes to our driving and licence laws, including:

  1. A new offence for careless driving causing death or bodily harm would lead to a licence suspension of up to five years, fines of between $2,000 and $5,000, up to two years of jail time and six demerit points.
  2. Novice drivers (those with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence) convicted of three or more distracted driving offences would see their licence cancelled.
  3. Drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians would see increased fines from a current maximum of $500 up to $1,000.

I don’t see how there can be any reasonable opposition to these changes that will hopefully make our roads safer for all.

Driving is a privilege and we all need to drive with care.