Distracted driving in Ontario got more expensive with the arrival of the new year with the hope that tougher penalties for distracted driving to make roads safer for everyone. Since the law came into effect in 2008 (with several iterations between now and then) there have been no significant changes in driver behaviour. In fact, in some cases distracted driving got worse with smartphones becoming more technologically enhanced. Apathy coupled with an alarming rate of convictions was the primary reason driving penalties became stricter.

Here are three other reasons why the police are ramping up distracted driving charges:

  • Distracted driving is one of the biggest threats to personal safety on the road. The Ministry of Transportation says that inattentive driving contributes to one in five deaths in Ontario.
  • The use of technology. Some think that they can text, find locations and maps on their GPS, and post selfies while driving. It takes one second for something bad to happen, and you must give yourself time to react.
  • Deaths from careless driving have doubled since 2000.

Penalties for distracted driving across Canada

Ontario currently has the strictest penalty enforced for careless driving. How do the other provinces compare?

Province/TerritoryFinesDemerit Points
British Columbia$543 – 1st Offence

$888 – 2nd Offence

New Brunswick$172.503

And Labrador

$100 – $4004
Northwest Territories$322 – $6444
Nova Scotia?$233.95 – 1st Offence

$348.95 – 2nd Offence

$578.95 – 3+ Offences

Nunavut (No Laws For Distracted Driving)00
Ontario$615 – $30003 – 6
Prince Edward Island$572 – $12755
Quebec$300 – $6005

To recap, the breakdowns of fees when you’re convicted in Ontario are:

  • First offence: three days suspension and $1,000 fine
  • Second offence: seven days suspension and $2,000 fine
  • Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $3,000 fine and six demerit points

For novice drivers

If you’re a new driver (G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence holder) you’ll be subject to the same fines as drivers, but won’t receive any demerit points. Instead, you will receive the following:

  • First offence: 30-day licence suspension
  • Second offence: 90-day licence suspension
  • Third offence: cancellation of your licence. You’ll have to start the graduated licensing process all over again. 

Other facts you should know

  • Even if it’s your first offence the days of receiving a warning are over. At a minimum, you’ll receive a ticket for $615. If convicted, you will get a three-day suspension and a $1,000 fine.
  • Remember, distracted driving isn’t just limited to using technology behind the wheel. Read the full list of offences here.
  • Distracted driving isn’t stunt driving. The officer who charges you can’t seize/impound your car. It’s only after a judge finds you guilty that your license will be suspended.

How to avoid distracted driving penalties

  • Make all relevant calls, send texts and find appropriate addresses in your GPS before driving.
  • Put your phone on silent to mitigate the risk of looking at your phone before arriving at your destination.
  • Pull over.  If you’re behind the wheel and find yourself caught in an overwhelming situation, don’t hesitate to pull off the road into a safe area to deal with distractions.

Play it safe and put the devices away and out of reach when behind the wheel. It keeps you and others safe while reducing your chances of fines, demerit points and higher insurance rates that come with distracted driving convictions.

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