Government of Ontario plans on introducing tougher distracted driving legislation

Distracted and careless drivers will soon face even more stringent penalties.

Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Eleanor McMahon announced plans to introduce new legislation in the fall that would “help protect pedestrians and cyclists and reduce the number of people killed or injured by impaired, distracted and dangerous drivers.”

“Ontario is taking action to reduce the number of people killed by impaired, distracted and dangerous drivers,” said Del Duca, in a September 20th, 2017 media release. “These measures will help keep some of our most vulnerable road users safe and help us drive home the message that dangerous, impaired and distracted driving is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.”

The new legislation will include stricter penalties for careless driving that results in death or bodily harm; “increased penalties” and “escalating fines” for drivers who commit more than one pedestrian-related offence; and, notably, “tougher penalties” for distracted driving, “including higher fines, more demerit points and license suspensions.”

Understanding Ontario’s current rules of the road 

The ministry of transportation currently defines distracted driving as things like using your phone to talk or text, as well as eating and reading while driving. As it stands, Ontario drivers with A, B, C, D, E, F and/or G licenses face a fine of $490 CAD for distracted driving, if settled out of court, and a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose. 

Those licenses also automatically gain three demerit points if convicted. As for G1, G2, M1 or M2 licenses, they face stricter penalties: a 30-day suspension for a first conviction, a 60-day suspension for a second conviction, and the cancellation of your license for a third conviction. 

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) defines careless driving as any activity that endangers other people due to any kind of distracted driving. Interestingly enough, both handheld and hands-free devices can qualify someone for a distracted driving penalty. 

“…we are not introducing any new restrictions, but rather strengthening penalties for existing ones…” 

If convicted for careless driving, drivers can gain six demerit points, be fined up to $2,000, receive a jail term of six months, as well as lose their license for up to two years. Bob Nichols, an MTO spokesperson clarified that “we are not introducing any new restrictions, but rather strengthening penalties for existing ones.” Nichols expects that Canada’s telecommunications companies will be “comfortable with the approach.” 

The Government of Ontario is also currently in the process of reviewing the province’s two-way radio exemptions that typically affect “public function employees” — like bus drivers — as well as commercial drivers and amateur radio operators. 

The current two-way radio exemptions are set to expire on January 1st, 2018. 

According to the September 20th media release, “For 16 years in a row, Ontario’s roads have been ranked either first- or second-safest in North America.”

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