Ontario Set To Expand The Scope Of Distracted Driving Offences
Effective January 1, 2019, local enforcement officers will have greater powers to crack down on any behavior that can be characterized as distracted driving. The list will be expanded to include behavior that goes beyond the usual “driving while using a hand-held device” infractions that are common now and have been for some years.
So what else can constitute distracted driving? As per the Ontario government’s website, anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road constitutes distracted driving. This will be a discretionary call to be made by enforcement officers, but distracted driving can include eating or drinking whle driving’, driving while wearing earphones, reading a map, looking at your watch, typing into a GPS device, or applying makeup. Drivers need to be aware of the seriousness of such behaviour, and the potential consequences both to themselves and other users of the roadways.
The broader definition also comes with stricter penalties, as distracted driving remains a serious problem in Ontario and now surpasses drunk driving as the leading cause of roadway accidents, with one person being injured every 30 minutes as a result. A driver using his or her cellphone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focused on the road. The fines for distracted driving will increase from a maximum of $1000 to $2000 on a second conviction and up to $3000 on a third conviction and could cost up to six demerit points for a repeat offender. The charge also includes a license suspension of three days once found guilty by the court for a first time offender; seven days for a second offence and 30 days for any further offences.
More specifically, the penalties taking effect January 1, 2019 as are follows:
First Offence: 3 day license suspension by the court on a guilty verdict or plea and a $1000 fine.
Second Offence: 7 day license suspension by the court on a guilty verdict or plea and a $2000 fine.
Third Offence or greater: 30 day license suspension by the court on a guilty verdict or plea and $3000 fine, with six demerit points.
Police have also indicated that it will be unlikely that motorists will be left off with a warning when pulled over for any distracted driving related offences, since these laws have been on the books for quite some time.
Undoubtedly these types of offences will also have an impact on the driver’s insurance premiums that increase based on the number of offences. Drivers with multiple offences may have a hard time obtaining reasonably affordable coverage or any coverage if they are deemed to be too high risk. If your distracted driving causes an accident that results in serious injury, you could be sued by the innocent victim. Usually a conviction for this type of an offence will be considered strong evidence that you are at fault for the accident in any such lawsuit as well.
The province is sending a clear message that such behavior can cost lives and will not be tolerated. The Ontario government website recommends that your phone be locked away in your glove box while you are driving and auto messages be turned on to alert people that you cannot respond because you are driving.
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