distracted driving

Stay Off That Smart Phone

Over 35 years of practice I have come across motor vehicle accidents that have resulted from a wide variety of causes. Earlier in my career impaired driving was unfortunately too often a component of the cases I handled. Now distracted driving is often the cause. Statistics bear out my experience. Deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled in Ontario since 2000. From 2013, one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half hour. An individual on a phone is 4 times more likely to crash than a driver focussing on the road.

The Ontario Government has recognized the increasing peril of distracted driving and recently (as of January 1st, 2019) increased the fines and penalties for distracted drivers. For the first conviction the fine has been increased up to a maximum of $1,000 with 3 demerit points and a 3 day licence suspension. Consequences are worse for repeat offenders. A second conviction can result in a fine of up to $2,000, 6 demerit points and a 7 day licence suspension. A third and further convictions can increase the fine up to $3,000, 6 demerit points and a 30 day licence suspension. Longer suspensions for distracted driving are applicable to holders of G1, G2, M1 and M2 licences. Distracted driving can also result in careless driving charges. Careless driving charges apply if you endanger other people because of any kind of distraction. It is even possible that distracted driving can result in dangerous driving charges which carry significantly heavier penalties and consequences.

How often have you seen someone on their phone while stopped at a red light or stopped in traffic? Distracted driving laws apply to the use of handheld communication/entertainment devices and certain display screens even when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light.

The law permits you to use hands-free wireless communication devices with an ear piece, lapel button or Bluetooth. You can also view GPS display screens as long as they are built into your vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted on the dashboard.

While eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading and reaching for objects can result in your focus being taken off the road, Ontario’s distracted driving laws do not apply to these types of actions. That said, you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

We all know how tempting it is to reach for your phone when a new text or email is received. This is especially the case when you are stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. Don’t do it. If you do you are breaking the law and, more importantly, you are endangering the lives of others and yourself.

Peter Downs

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