New Year New Distracted Driving Laws

Written By: Bryan Sansom and Taraneh Etemadi, Student-at-Law

Starting on January 1, 2019, the Province is ushering in new distracted driving legislation. The new laws are a part of Ontario’s Bill 174 Cannabis Legislation which was passed on December 12, 2017, and regulates the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

Any driver who is now found talking on their phones, which includes texting, dialing or emailing with an electronic device, will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000, a three-day license suspension, and a penalty of three demerit points. Any driver convicted of distracted driving more than once will be fined up to $2,000, a seven day license suspension and a penalty of six demerit points. Drivers who have been convicted of distracted driving more than two times will be fined up to $3,000 and lose their license for 30 days.[1]

Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, commented on the benefits of this legislation, stating that it “allows the province to address unsafe driving behaviours, including careless driving and impaired driving with tough new rules and penalties that will help improve road safety.”[2]

These legislative changes are very important for drivers as well as pedestrians using Ontario roads. In the past, distracted driving has been the primary cause of fatal collisions in Ontario as compared to other factors such as speeding and drinking and driving. In 2016, the Ontario Provincial Police reported 65 fatalities involving distracted drivers.[3]

Many Ontarians may now wonder, which devices are permissible behind the wheel. The Ministry of Transportation has advised that drivers are permitted to use any device that would not require them to touch, hold or manipulate while driving. The ministry has also published the following chart to help determine what kinds of devices are permitted:[4]

It is also noteworthy that the use of hand-held electronic devices are prohibited even when a driver is stopped at a red light or stop sign. The only exceptions are when making 9-1-1 calls in emergency situations and when a driver has lawfully parked or safely pulled to the side of a roadway.[5]

This law works to promote safe streets in Ontario and will help put an end to avoidable life-threatening crashes. We are looking forward to seeing the positive changes this law will bring.

[1] https://www.ontario.ca/page/distracted-driving

[2] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/distracted-driving-penalty-increase-1.4916615

[3] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/opp-distracted-driving-death-1.4019014

[4] http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/distracted-driving-faq.shtml

[5] http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/distracted-driving-faq.shtml

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