The OPP just wrapped up their annual distracted driving campaign during the March break to remind Ontarians they have a zero tolerance policy for anyone using a handheld device while driving. They handed out more than 2,400 tickets throughout the province.
Distracted driving is a growing problem all over Ontario, with one person injured in a collision every half hour. It’s also one of the leading causes of deaths on our highways, surpassing deaths due to alcohol, speeding and drug use.
In 2017, 83 Ontarians lost their lives due to inattentive driving, a figure that’s more than doubled since the introduction of smart phones. Figures show that someone using a phone is four times likelier to have an accident than someone who is just focused on driving.
Fines and penalties
Nine years ago, Ontario introduced distracted driving laws, yet 700 deaths have resulted from distracted-driving collisions since then. As of September 1, 2015, Ontario increased the fines and penalties for distracted driving.
Should you be convicted of distracted driving, you will be fined $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court. Should you receive a summons or choose to fight your ticket, you could be fined up to $1,000. In both cases, in Ontario, three demerit points will be applied to your driver’s record.
The Ministry of Transportation warns distracted drivers they may be charged with the offense of Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act or even Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada. These are serious charges that carry heavy fines of up to $2,000, a licence suspension or even a jail term.
The use of any handheld device is strictly forbidden while driving. In Ontario, it’s against the law to “operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you’re driving” and to “view display screens unrelated to your driving”.
What if you’re at a red light? You’ve got a few seconds to see who texted you or to make a call right? Wrong! That’s against the law, since you’re expected to focus on your driving and nothing else. The government recommends that you turn off notifications on your phone before any commute, to avoid any temptation.
You can use your phone if you’ve got an earpiece or headset, provided you dialed before you drove off or that you use voice-activated dialing. You can also view your GPS if you programmed it beforehand and if it’s mounted on the dashboard or windshield.