On September 1st 2015, Ontario’s Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act came into effect. This new legislation presents important changes that motorists should know about. The Act both increases penalties for existing traffic offences, and changes the requirements of drivers’ behaviour. Amongst the most significant changes are the increase of fines for distracted driving and the requirement that motorists allow pedestrians to completely cross an intersection or school crossing before advancing.
The changes regarding pedestrian crossings reflect Ontario’s concern for pedestrian well-being. Nearly half of all deaths related to motor vehicle accidents occur at intersections, and pedestrians represent one in five of all motor vehicle-related deaths.
Much of the changes also focus on consequences of impaired or distracted driving. In Ontario, it is illegal to operate a range of electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, and motorists can be charged with distracted driving if found using such devices while they drive. These devices include cell phones, iPods and other mp3 players, laptops, and even GPS devices. There are however, exceptions to this regulation which include devices which are hands-free, the use of a cell phone to make a 911 call, and the use of electronics when the vehicle is lawfully parked. As of the first of this month, those convicted of distracted driving will receive a fine of between $400 and $1000, and three demerit points.
The changes to impaired driving sanctions include the application of alcohol-related penalties to individuals who drive under the influence of illegal drugs, and the introduction of additional measures to address individuals who are repeatedly caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
We at Smordin Law anticipate many legal challenges to what constitutes using a device and what the meaning of distracted is when it comes to driving. Losing your license entirely or simply not being able to afford to drive due to increased insurance could have enormous impact on your day to day life. If you have been stopped for “distracted driving” contact the lawyers at Smordin Law to discuss your options.
Fines / Penalties For Distracted Driving In Ontario
As of September 1, 2015 the fines and penalties for distracted driving will increase.
If convicted of distracted driving, a fully licenced driver (holder of Class A, B, C, D, E, F, G) or a hybrid driver (holder of a full-class licence and a novice licence such as Class G and M1) will receive:
- a fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court
- fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
- three demerit points applied to your driver’s record
If convicted of distracted driving, a novice driver (subject to the Graduated Licensing program) will be subject to escalating sanctions:
- first occurrence will result in a 30-day licence suspension
- second occurrence will result in 90-day licence suspension
- licence cancellation and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third occurrence
Novice drivers will not be subject to demerit points.
If you endanger others because of any distraction, including both hand-held and hands-free devices, you can also be charged with careless driving. If convicted, you will automatically receive:
- six demerit points
- fines up to $2,000 and/or
- a jail term of six months
- up to two-year licence suspension
You can even be charged with dangerous driving (a criminal offence), with jail terms of up to five years.
You can still use hand-held devices while driving in a few cases:
- in a vehicle pulled off the roadway or lawfully parked
- to make a 911 call
- transmitting or receiving voice communication on a two-way, CB or mobile radio (hand-mikes and portable radios like walkie-talkies require a lapel button or other hands-free accessory)