The modern world is full of distractions. Even when you’re behind the wheel, you might find yourself tempted to take a phone call, glance at a text message, eat a snack, or interact with your car’s radio or GPS system.
These might all seem like innocuous tasks, but they are major contributors to roadway accidents. Not only that, performing these actions while driving is actually illegal in Canada.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, distracted driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. And just like driving under the influence, distracted driving can carry serious penalties.
What Is Distracted Driving?
As the name implies, distracted driving occurs any time the driver takes their attention off the immediate task of operating their motor vehicle.
This could mean glancing out of the window to look intently at an object outside of the vehicle. It could mean interacting with passengers within the vehicle. Or it could be trying to interact with an object such as an electronic device, food or drink, map, or anything else which takes attention away from driving.
According to the RCMP, “distractions can compromise your judgment and affect your ability to drive.”
No matter how long you’ve been on the road, how experienced you are as a driver, or how pressing another matter may seem, it is imperative to keep your focus firmly fixed on operating your vehicle at all times while driving.
Ontario Penalties for Distracted Driving
If you are observed to be driving distracted, you may be subject to a traffic stop and a fine.
In Ontario, fines for distracted driving can range up to $6,000 and carry as many as six demerit points on your driving record.
The fine structure for distracted driving in Ontario can be broken down as follows:
- $615 ticket for first time offenders. If you attempt to dispute the ticket and lose the dispute, your fine can increase to as much as $1,000.
- $615 ticket, 7 day suspension of driver’s license, and six demerit points on driving record for second time offenders. If you attempt to dispute the ticket and lose the dispute, your fine can increase to as much as $2,000.
- $615 ticket, 30 day suspension of driver’s license, and six demerit points on driving record for third time offenders. If you attempt to dispute the ticket and lose the dispute, your fine can increase to $3,000.
For novice drivers in Ontario with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, suspensions can be even longer and the driver faces the possibility of revocation of their permit.
If you are involved in an accident and it is determined that you were driving distracted, you can be charged with careless or dangerous driving, which carries much harsher penalties.
Should you be found to be at fault in the accident due to your distracted driving, you may be liable for damages and medical expenses incurred as a result of your distracted driving.
Distracted drivers charged with careless driving which endangers the lives of others can face a suspension of their driver’s license for as long as two years and may even face jail time.
Using Electronic Devices While Driving In Ontario
One of the most common forms of distracted driving is the use of an electronic device, such as a smart phone or GPS system.
In Ontario, it is illegal to talk on a cellphone or use a handheld device to view a screen or input information. That means no texting, web browsing, interacting with maps, or otherwise using your cellphone or smart phone while driving.
Even if your vehicle is stationary at a stop sign or red light, it is still illegal to use these electronic devices and you may be subject to a distracted driving penalty.
Hands free wireless devices equipped with an earpiece using Bluetooth or other wireless technology can be used while driving. However, you should still keep your full attention on operating the vehicle and the roadway ahead of you.
A GPS display screen can be used only if it is built into the vehicle’s dashboard and does not require the driver to take their attention from the roadway.
Long Story Short: It Can Wait
When driving, leave your phone in the backseat, and keep your eyes on the road. Your text messages and Facebook comments will still be there when you get home. Don’t risk the safety of you, your passengers or others.
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