Distracted driving may be as dangerous as having too many drinks then getting behind the wheel, or driving while under the influence of drugs. Some of the most avoidable car accidents can be attributed to the driver simply diverting his or her attention elsewhere, such as checking their phone, when their eyes should have been focused on what was in front of them on the road.
While it is difficult to legislate human behaviour or to change generations of ingrained driving habits, the Ontario government believes that putting in some rules can at least provide some incentive for people to change their driving behaviour. The government estimates that one person is killed on Ontario’s roads every 17 hours, so they announced stiffer penalties for distracted driving:
- A new offence for careless driving causing death or bodily harm would lead to a licence suspension of up to five years, fines of between $2,000 and $50,000, up to two years of jail time and six demerit points.
- The fines for distracted driving would increase from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on a second conviction and up to $3,000 for third or subsequent incidents, as well as six demerit points for multiple offences.
- Novice drivers (those with only a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence), who are convicted of three or more distracted driving offences would see their licence cancelled.
- Drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians would also see increased fines under the legislation from a current maximum of $500 up to $1,000
Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, who plans on bringing forward legislation this fall, says when enacted these new laws will be the toughest penalties for repeated distracted driving offenses in Canada.