Distracted Driving Laws In Ontario – What You Need To Know

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents each year is distracted driving. With the increasing prominence of cellphones and digital devices, deaths resulting from distracted-driving collisions have doubled in the last two decades. 

Glancing at a text message while behind the wheel has more consequences than just higher insurance premiums and monetary fines. A driver using a cellphone, instead of focusing on the road, is actually four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Because of the heightened possibility of careless drivers endangering themselves and others, Ontario is one of the strictest provinces when it comes to distracted driving laws. 

Here is what you need to know in order to protect yourself, and others, while on the road. 

Examples of Distracted Driving

While operating a motor vehicle, it is illegal for the motorist to text, email, dial, read or talk on a cellphone or any other hand-held device. This includes while being stopped at a red light or in traffic. Below are specific examples of distracted driving:

  • Using a cellphone or another hand-held communication device to send a text, make a call or change a song.
  • Inputting GPS information by hand while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Watching a video on a tablet, laptop, cellphone, or related device.

It is important to note that although Ontario’s distracted driving laws do not encompass eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, and reaching for objects, you could still be charged with careless or dangerous driving. As a driver, it is crucial to keep your eyes and focus on the road. 

Exemptions to the Law

There is no good reason to be distracted while driving, except maybe in the case of an emergency. 

  • If you need to call 911, it is permitted to do so.
  • If you need to make any other urgent phone call, your vehicle must be lawfully parked or off the roadway in a safe area.

Ontario’s laws are in regards to hand-held wireless and digital devices. It is legal to make phone calls using Bluetooth or any other hands-free manner. 

Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

When you are the operator of a motor vehicle, your hands should be on the steering wheel with your eyes only on the road. Oftentimes, this is easier said than done but it is of utmost importance to follow the law so everyone on the road is kept safe. Here are some tips on how to avoid distracted driving:

  • Pre-program your vehicle’s built-in GPS or input the information into your cellphone before the vehicle is in motion. If using your phone for the GPS function, ensure it is securely mounted to your car’s windshield or dashboard and out of hands reach. 
  • If you receive a call or text while driving, ask a passenger to respond for you. In the event that there is no passenger in the vehicle, it is best to ignore any notifications until you have reached your destination. If it is an emergency, ensure you pull over to a safe area before engaging with your cellphone.
  • Before leaving the house, switch your phone to silent mode or turn it off completely. It is also helpful to place your devices in the glove compartment, back seat, or in the trunk of your car in order to avoid the possibility of disturbance to the task at hand. 
  • Make use of Bluetooth or hands-free devices and headsets. If your vehicle is equipped with Bluetooth or related technology, it is important to pre-program or plug in your phone and activate the hands-free feature. You can also purchase headsets that allow you to answer and make calls with no risk of distraction. 
  • Record an outgoing message or enable automatic text replies that inform those trying to reach you that you are currently driving and will contact them when you’re off the road.

Penalties for Distracted Driving

In order to avoid the consequences of distracted driving, it is simply best to follow the law and not use hand-held devices while behind the wheel. The penalties for this type of conviction depend on the kind of license held and the years of driving experience.

First Conviction

  • A fine of $615 if the case is settled out of court and a fine up to $1000 if taken to court
  • Three demerit points
  • Three-day license suspension

Second Conviction

    • A fine of $615 if the case is settled out of court and a fine up to $2000 if taken to court
    • Six demerit points
    • Seven-day license suspension

Third Conviction

  • A fine of $615 if the case is settled out of court and a fine up to $300 if taken to court
  • Six demerit points
  • Thirty-day license suspension

G1, G2, M1, and M2 licenses convicted of distracted driving face the same fines as fully licensed drivers but will not receive demerit points. Novice drivers instead face longer license suspension:

  • Thirty-day license suspension for a first conviction
  • Ninety-day license suspension for a second conviction
  • Complete cancellation of license and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third conviction

Careless and Dangerous Driving

Drivers who endanger others because of any kind of distraction may also be charged with Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act or Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada. Penalties for these crimes include license suspensions up to five years and between two and 14 years of jail time for causing bodily harm or death. 

Distracted Driving and Motor Vehicles Accident Injuries

Distracted driving is now the leading cause of accidents in Ontario, accounting for 64% of all accidents. This surpasses the number of crashes caused by drunk driving and speeding. Common injuries of distracted driving accidents include:

  • Brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Tendon, joint, and ligament injuries
  • Skin burns and lacerations
  • Paralysis
  • Limb amputations
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • PTSD, anxiety, shock, and depression
  • Death

Contact Derek Wilson Law If You’ve Been Involved In A Motor Vehicle Accident

Answering a text can have more serious repercussions than just tickets and fines. In order to keep the roads safe for everyone, it is important to refrain from any form of distracted driving. 

If you, or someone you love, are a victim of a crash, you shouldn’t have to suffer economic damages. During this difficult time, you need a motor vehicle accident lawyer to recover the maximum amount of benefits for you. We understand that an injury from a motor vehicle accident can affect your physical and financial well-being, so contact us today to begin discussing your case.

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