Stricter than ever road rules are coming soon.
Police sources have confirmed that Ontario’s new driving laws, which received royal assent earlier this year, will officially take effect in the province on Aug. 1, 2019.
Drivers convicted of distracted driving under the new laws will be punished with a licence suspension, a hefty fine and demerit points. The severity of the punishment increases with the number of subsequent offences committed:
- First offence: 3 days suspension and $3,000 fine
- Second offence: 7 days suspension and $5,000 fine
- Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $10,000 fine and six demerit points
Police will not be able to seize driver’s licences at roadside. They would have to get the approval of a judge in order to be able to suspend any driver’s licences.
Distracted driving is no longer limited to just texting and making phone calls. The Government of Ontario has posted a lis tof activities that counts as distracted driving and it includes anything from simply holding an electronic device in one’s hand to eating while behind the wheel .
The automatic suspension of driver’s licences, as well as the charging fines of $3,000 or over, will be imposed on convicted distracted drivers under the update regulations. But what counts as distracted driving in Ontario?
According to the official Government of Ontario website, anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road constitutes distracted driving. These include activities such as:
- Simply holding an electronic device in your hands (hand-held communication during driving is against the law)
- Using a cellular phone to talk, text, check maps or switch playlists
- Eating (there may not be a licence suspension, but the RCMP warn you could be fined $1,500 or given six demerits depending on the food)
- Reading books or documents
- Typing a destination into the GPS
Distracted driving is not limited to just the the use of electronics, as most people assume. Doing any of the aforementioned activities while behind the wheel makes you guilty of distracted driving, even if you’re on the highway or stopped at a red light.
What you can use, however, are:
- Hands-free devices (e.g. Bluetooth), but only to turn it on and off
- Mounted devices, as long as they are secured properly
These rules were enforced as of August 31, 2017, but more restrictions may have been added by then (e.g., doing makeup).
According to provincial road statistics, deaths from collisions have doubled since 2000. One person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, and drivers using their phones are four times more likely to crash.
There have also been cases where people have been convicted of distracted driving for seemingly harmless deeds such as wearing earphones you can get fined $1,000 or looking at a smart watch you can get fined $1,000 while driving.
According to the government, distracted driving is anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road ; however, some drivers could argue that such definition is subjective.
The OPP have announced that they will no longer let people off with warning if they are caught distracted driving. This means guilty offenders will automatically be slapped with straight fines.
“The time for warnings is certainly gone,” said OPP Sgt. David Rektor. “Warnings served a purpose at the initial stages when people were transitioning to this law, but this law has been in effect for a number of years now. There’s no reason why somebody needs to be distracted.”
The OPP will be closely monitoring the roads moving forward to crackdown on the distracted driving problem.