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Three Reasons why Ontario is Making Distracted Driving Charges Tougher

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This is the third blog in our series for Distracted Driving Awareness Month which discusses the penalties of careless driving.

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 reasons driving penalties became stricter.

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

  1. 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.
  2. The use of technology. Some think that they can text, find locations and maps on their GPS as well as post selfies while driving. It takes one second for something bad to happen and you need to give yourself time to react.
  3. 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/Territory Fines Demerit Points
Alberta$287 3
British Columbia$543 – 1st offence
$888 – 2nd offence
4
Manitoba$672 5
New Brunswick$172.50 3
Newfoundland
and Labrador
$100 – $400 4
Northwest Territories$322 – $644 4
Nova Scotia?$233.95 – 1st offence
$348.95 – 2nd offence
$578.95 – 3+ offences
4
Nunavut (no laws for distracted driving)0 0
Ontario$615 – $3000 3 – 6
Prince Edward Island$572 – $1275 5
Quebec$300 – $600 5
Yukon$500 3

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 you’re convicted, you will get the three day suspension and $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 distracting driving penalties:

  1. Make all relevant calls, send texts and find appropriate addresses in your GPS prior to driving.
  2. Put your phone on silent to mitigate the risk of looking at your phone before arriving to your destination.
  3. Pull over.  If you’re behind the wheel and find yourself caught in an overwhelming situation, don’t hesitate to pull off of 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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