DISTRACTED DRIVING – WHAT IT IS AND THE STRONG PENALTIES – REMIND YOUR KIDS (AND YOURSELVES)

I have a new teenage driver at home, with more to come.

It’s a good time to review the strict penalties in Ontario for distracted driving, including to remind not only ourselves, but our kids, too.

Be safe, not sorry.     

DEFINITION OF “DISTRACTED DRIVING”

Ontario’s distracted driving laws apply to the use of all hand-held communication/entertainment devices and certain display screens.

While you are driving, including when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light, it is illegal to:

•    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; and
•    program a GPS device, except by voice commands.

In fact, simply holding a phone or other device while driving is against the law.

You are only allowed to use hands-free wireless communications devices with an earpiece, lapel button or Bluetooth.

You can only view GPS display screens as long as they are constructed into your vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted on the dashboard.

Other actions such as eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading and reaching for objects are not part of Ontario’s distracted driving law. However, you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

PENALTIES FOR DISTRACTED DRIVING

If convicted, the penalty you face depends on the kind of licence you hold and how long you’ve been driving.

Drivers with A to G licences:

If you have an A, B, C, D, E, F, G and/or M licence, you’ll face bigger penalties when convicted of distracted driving:

•    First conviction:

o    a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
o    a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
o    three demerit points
o    3-day suspension

•    Second conviction

o    a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
o    a fine of up to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
o    six demerit points
o    7-day suspension

•    Third and any further conviction(s)

o    a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
o    a fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
o    six demerit points
o    30-day suspension

Novice drivers

If you hold a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences. But you won’t receive any demerit points.
Instead of demerit points you’ll face longer suspensions:

•    a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
•    a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
•    cancellation of your licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction
o    to get your licence back you’d have to redo the GLS program


CARELESS DRIVING

You could face more charges – for careless driving – if you endanger other people because of any kind of distraction.

This includes distraction caused by both hand-held (e.g., phone) or hands-free (e.g., Bluetooth) devices.

If convicted of careless driving, you may receive:

•    six demerit points
•    fines up to $2,000 and/or
•    a jail term of six months
•    a licence suspension of up to two years

You could even be charged with dangerous driving – a criminal offence that carries heavier penalties, including jail terms of up to 10 years for causing bodily harm or up to 14 years for causing death.

CALLING 911

In an emergency, you can use your phone to call 911, but be sure to pull off the road to a safe area to make the call.

 


Thank you for reading this - Jason Ward of WARDS LAWYERS PC.

If you would like to read more, please go to wardlegal.ca/posts.

This WARDS LAWYERS PC blog is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

More information? We're here to help - jason@wardlegal.ca | www.wardlegal.ca