Distracted driving is one of the largest causes of motor vehicle accidents in Canada. Every year, distracted drivers cause about 21% of fatalities and 27% of serious injury crashes. Texting and driving, putting an address in the GPS, or just eating make up some of the things that distract us while driving and the list only seems to grow every year. So what should you not be doing while driving and what kind of penalties can you face if you’re stopped by the police?
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving, in Ontario, is defined as the improper use of handheld and entertainment devices while driving. Distracted driving laws are set out in Section 78 of the Highway Traffic Act, which states:
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the display screen of a television, computer or other device in the motor vehicle is visible to the driver.”
Under Ontario’s distracted driving laws, it’s illegal to:
- Use a cellphone to talk, text or email
- Use a tablet, laptop or other entertainment device
- Watch video on any display screen
- Use a GPS device by hand
You can use hands-free wireless devices with an earpiece, lapel button or Bluetooth. The use of GPS display screens is permitted only if they are built into the vehicle dashboard (or securely mounted on the dashboard). Another exception to the rule is that drivers are allowed to dial 911 in an emergency.
Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving:
What Are The Consequences Of Being Convicted Of Distracted Driving?
The penalties for distracted driving are significant. If you hold a driver’s license (A to G or M license), your penalties will gradually increase with each conviction.
First-time offenders can expect to receive up to a $1,000 fine, three demerit points, and a 3-day license suspension. A second offence invites a fine of up to $2,000, six demerit points, and a 7-day license suspension. The third and subsequent offences entail a fine of up to $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day license suspension.
If you’re convicted of distracted driving as a novice driver (i.e., a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license holder), you’ll receive the same fines as drivers with A to G licenses. However, instead of receiving demerit points, you’ll be suspended from driving for longer periods: 30-day suspension for the first conviction; 90-day for the second suspension; and, removal from the licensing system for the third conviction.
Difference Between Distracted Driving And Careless Driving
Finally, it’s important to note the distinction between distracted driving and careless driving. The Highway Traffic Act defines careless driving far more broadly than reckless driving:
“Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.”
That means distractions such as eating, drinking, smoking or trying to reach for an object can invite a traffic ticket. Note that careless driving is not a criminal offence.
If you are involved in an accident and found to have been driving carelessly in court, you can face a fine of up to $2,000, six demerit points, suspension of your license for up to two years, or even imprisonment.
What Should You Do If You Are Involved In A Motor Vehicle Accident?
If you or a loved one have been injured due to careless or reckless behaviour like distracted driving, talk to our trauma lawyers today. We’ll sit with you to explain your options and tell you how to maximize the compensation you are owed.
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