Last updated: October 21, 2023, 3:13PM EST
At this point, we all know how dangerous distracted driving is. Despite this, it continues to be a growing problem. With 80% of collisions involving distraction as a contributing factor, it’s more important than ever to put away all possible distractions when behind the wheel and focus on the road ahead.
In addition to the fines, demerit points and license suspensions for distracted driving, it can also have a serious impact on your car insurance with many insurers now treating it as a major conviction. Learn more about what this means below.
Many insurers now treating distracted driving as a major conviction
In Ontario, a distracted driving offence can result in a suspension of three days for a first offence, seven for a second, and thirty and beyond for three or more offences.
Your auto insurance will also be severely impacted. A major conviction can land you with some seriously high rates, sometimes anywhere between 2-5x more expensive than your pre-conviction rates. You also risk non-renewal and may need to go through a specialized high-risk insurer to maintain continuous insurance.
What counts as distracted driving?
Ontario’s distracted driving laws prohibit the use of hand-held communication or entertainment devices and display screens while operating a motor vehicle. Regardless of whether you’re driving, or stopped at a red light or stop sign, it is illegal in the province to do any of the following:
- Program a GPS device by hand (voice commands are allowed)
- Use a portable gaming console or tablet
- View any display screens unrelated to driving
- Use a phone or similar hand-held wireless communication device to call or text (the only exception to this rule is touching a device to call 911 in an emergency)
Things like eating, drinking, smoking, reading, grooming, or even reaching around your vehicle to find objects are not considered distracted driving, but you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
Bluetooth devices or similar hands-free wireless communication devices are permitted. So long as they are securely mounted or built into your vehicle’s dashboard, you can view GPS display screens.
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Penalties for distracted driving in Ontario
Distracted driving laws and penalties are becoming increasingly severe. Here’s what you could be faced with if you’re ever convicted of distracted driving in Ontario:
|First Offence||$615-$1,000||3 points||3 days|
|Second Offence||$615-$2,000||6 points||7 days|
|Third Offence||$615-$3,000||6 points||30 days|
|Data Source: ontario.ca – Penalties for distracted driving|
How do convictions affect your insurance?
Traffic convictions and tickets aren’t just things you pay for once and then forget about. Speeding tickets, moving violations, and other driving infractions can affect your premiums. Let’s explore some examples of just how much a distracted driving conviction can impact your premiums.
For the following data table, let’s assume the individual in question is a 30-year-old female living in Whitby, Ontario (L1N) and drives a 2021 Volkswagen Jetta that was purchased new. Driver A is claims-free with no convictions, whereas Driver B is claims-free but has a distracted driving charge on their record.
|Driver||Conviction||Aviva||CAA Insurance||Intact||Pembridge||Travelers||Wawanesa||Zenith Insurance|
|Driver B||Distracted Driving||$6,593||$3,142a||N/Ab||N/Ac||$3,173||$4,428||$6,885|
With the conviction, some insurers (like SGI, Aviva Traders, Pembridge, etc.) won’t offer coverage at all. Having a distracted driving conviction can qualify you for non-standard auto insurance (otherwise known as high-risk auto insurance), which is offered by several of Mitch’s partners, like Echelon, Jevco, Pafco, Economical, Coachman, and Facility.
Depending on the severity of the infraction, the incident can remain on your driving record and negatively impact your rates for 3-6 years. Considering that some criminal offences can cause your rates to double (or more), just think of the thousands of dollars you could end up paying over the course of those 3-6 years. Is sending that text really worth it?
The three categories of tickets
To gauge how much your premiums will go up, or how long they’ll be affected by your ticket, it’s important to know what category of ticket your incident falls into. From an insurer’s point of view, traffic offences and tickets will fall into one of three categories.
- Minor offences, such as reversing on a highway, failing to obey traffic signs, or even improperly passing a stopped emergency vehicle.
- Major offences, such as distracted driving, speeding in a school zone, or lying to a police officer.
- Criminal offences, such as DUIs, racing, driving without insurance, or driving while suspended.
Tips for preventing distracted driving
The best way to avoid the rate spike from a distracted driving conviction is to, well, avoid driving distracted. Here’s some tips:
- To avoid temptation, put your phone somewhere you can’t reach – the glovebox, a bag in the backseat, etc.
- Finish getting dressed and doing all your personal grooming before you leave home.
- Eat meals or snacks before or after driving and not during. Not only is it distracting to consume food during your trip, but it’ll can also make your car messy.
- Secure all pets and children before leaving. If anyone needs your attention, pull over to care for them safely. Never reach into the backseat while driving.
- Securely store any loose items to stop them from rolling around and tempting you to reach for them during your drive.
- Program your GPS before you depart, not once you’ve already hit the road. If you need to adjust your destination, pull over.
- If there’s any kind of activity that’s preventing you from devoting your full attention to driving, then that’s a distraction. Make sure it’s taken care of before or after your commute, not during your trip.
If you have been convicted of distracted driving or a similar offence and need to purchase high-risk auto insurance, reach out to Mitch today. Our team of insurance brokers will be happy to help you find coverage at the best possible price.
Thanks to Alex Gemmiti (BSc, CIP, RIBO), Mitch’s service team manager, for reviewing this post, and to Natalie Mullins (RIBO), Mitch personal insurance advisor, for running the quotes.