The stakes will be even higher when it comes to distracted driving in Ontario. Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) is reminding Ontario drivers that strengthened distracted driving laws took effect Jan. 1.
New additions include licence suspensions, increased demerit points and an increase to the minimum financial penalty that can be charged to those guilty of distracted driving.
“CAA fully supports the increased fines and penalties that will be in place for distracted driving,” said Elliott Silverstein, CAA SCO government relations manager. “Hopefully these new rules will encourage motorists to remain focused on the road and keep devices far from reach when operating their vehicle.”
Distracted driving continues to be a challenge on Ontario’s roads, nearly a decade after the initial legislation banning handheld devices was passed. The new legislation is the first increase since September 2015 when demerit points were added to distracted driving convictions.
Recent CAA research shows that one-in-three Ontario drivers claim to engage in distracted driving as a result of using a mobile device. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half an hour.
“The new fines and penalties are some of the strongest in the country and they will further aid law enforcement in their continued effort to make road conditions safer for everyone,” said Silverstein.
Starting Jan. 1, Ontario drivers can expect the following fines and penalties if caught driving distracted. The minimum financial penalty will increase from $490 to $615. A first conviction for distracted driving will now result in a three-day licence suspension, three demerit points and a minimum financial penalty of $615. A second conviction will result in a financial penalty of up to $2,000 (previously up to $1,000), six demerit points and a seven-day licence suspension. For third (or more) convictions, drivers will face a financial penalty of up to $3,000 (previously up to $1,000), six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension.
CAA recommends the following tips to reduce distractions behind the wheel: turn off mobile devices; stow and secure loose objects; avoid eating, drinking or smoking; prepare children with everything they need; pre-set the climate control and radio; pre-program your route on GPS; allow phone calls to go to voicemail; and don’t text, surf the web or read emails.
Oleksandr Kurchev photo