Dangers of Distracted Driving
Lane departure warnings. Automatic emergency braking. Backup cameras. Drivers today have more technology than ever to help avoid collisions. But still, there continues to be a concerning number of traffic fatalities on our Canadian streets and highways. In 2015, 1,858 Canadians died in traffic collisions, according to Transport Canada.
What’s driving those deadly numbers?
An important contributing factor to these collisions is the growing North American epidemic of distracted driving. In particular, the use of hand-held devices by Canadian drivers continues to impact the safety of all road users across every jurisdiction of the country. In Ontario, our highest-populated Canadian province, distracted driving has claimed the lives of more people than speed-related, seatbelt-related or alcohol-related collisions for the fifth consecutive year.
Costs of Distracted Driving
Until 2015, the minimum fine for distracted driving in Ontario was $60 and the maximum fine was $500. With the passage in 2015 of Bill 31, the minimum fine was raised to $300.
Highway Traffic Act changes that took effect Jan. 1, 2019 raised the minimum fine, on a first offence, to $500. A first offence also results in a three-day licence suspension. The licence suspension for a second offence is seven days and repeat offenders with more than two distracted driving charges face 30-day suspensions of their driver’s licences.
Individuals who have had their driver’s license suspended for committing moving traffic violations may experience rate increases of up to 25% or even cancellation or non-renewal of a policy. Suspensions stay on your insurance record for six years.
Maximum fines for distracted driving are now $1,000 for a first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and $3,000 for a third offence.
In Ontario, it is a provincial offence to drive on a highway “while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.”
Smart phones are not the only problem. The Highway Traffic Act stipulates that distracted driving includes driving “while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.”
There is an exception for using devices in hands-free mode.
It is illegal in Ontario to have a display screen of any device – including a television or computer – visible to the driver. There are several exceptions – including a GPS navigation device and a “logistical transportation tracking system device used for commercial purposes to track vehicle location, driver status or the delivery of packages or other goods.” Other exceptions include vehicle gauges and collision avoidance systems, provided that collision avoidance is their only function.
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