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New Distracted Driving Laws
15 Feb, 2019
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New Distracted Driving Laws

Countless lives are lost due to drivers who have lost control of their vehicle because of a distraction. As a result, the government of Canada has stepped in by passing new distracted driving laws — so what does this mean for drivers? Here, we ’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the new distracted driving laws in Ontario, so that you’ll be better prepared the next time you get behind the wheel.

What is distracted driving?

Ontario’s distracted driving laws apply to the use of handheld devices, like smartphones and tablets. Using any type of handheld communication device to text or make a phone call is illegal  — unless the driver is calling 911 in the case of an emergency. Other activities that are prohibited under Ontario’s distracted driving law include:

  • The use of a tablet or portable gaming console
  • The viewing of screens unrelated to driving
  • For example, looking at a GPS screen for directions is acceptable, whereas watching a video for entertainment is not
  • Programming a GPS device, unless the driver is using voice commands

It’s important to note that other ‘distractions’ like eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading, and reach for objects aren’t covered by the distracted driving law. However, motorists can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving as a result of these, and other distracting activities.

Can you use a hands-free unit while driving?

Currently, drivers are allowed to use hands-free devices, provided that they do not manipulate, hold, or touch the device while they’re driving. Many cars have Bluetooth capabilities, making this a suitable option for those that need to make calls on-the-go.

Other hands-free devices that are permissible include a GPS screen, as long as the required information is input before driving, portable media players that are plugged into the vehicle’s sound system, display screens that are built-in for safety purposes, and ignition interlock devices.

Can you use your phone at a stop light?

The answer is no, you cannot — but there are a few exceptions. These exceptions include emergency calls to the local fire station, police station, or to procure emergency response services. If, however, you want to make a recreational phone call with your handheld device then you will need to pull your motor vehicle off the roadway, and refrain from impeding traffic in any way.

What are the penalties?

If you’re charged with distracted driving in Ontario, the penalties are as follows:

  • First conviction:
  • A fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • A fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
  • Three demerit points
  • 3-day suspension
  • Second conviction
  • A fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • A fine of up to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
  • Six demerit points
  • 7-day suspension
  • Third and any further conviction(s)
  • A fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • A fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
  • Six demerit points
  • 30-day suspension

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are a few exceptions to the aforementioned rules and regulations. Drivers are permitted to use their hand-held phone to dial 911 if there is an emergency. You may also use your hand-held phone if you have safely pulled your automobile off the roadway and are not impeding traffic in any way. In other words, you must be lawfully parked if you wish to make a phone call or text that isn’t related to an emergency.

Devices That Aren’t Currently Banned

There are a few devices that are currently not included in the ban that you should be aware of. For instance, a display screen that is designed for collision avoidance systems can be viewed, and ignition interlocks are also permissible. Car audio screens that are able to display still imagery are not included in the ban, and drivers are legally allowed to view the display screen of a gauge or instrument that provides pertinent data on weather and road conditions.

Can a Distracted Driving Charge Impact Your Insurance Rate?

If you get charged with distracted driving in Ontario, then you can expect an increase in your premium. A distracted driving charge on your record may impact your conviction free discounts.  More than one ticket could result in a surcharge being applied, or worse, a cancellation of the insurance policy at renewal.

Navigating the roads can be difficult, and even more so when you’re distracted. Your best bet to stay safe is to stay off your handheld device when driving. To learn more about how the impact of new distracted driving laws in Ontario could impact your insurance, please call W.B. White at 1-877-420-4572 or contact us here.

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Oshawa Office 110 King Street East
Oshawa, Ontario, L1H 1B6

Lindsay Branch Office 16 Russell Street West
Lindsay, Ontario, K9V 2W7