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Distracted driving

Region: Ontario Answer # 528

What is distracted driving?

The RCMP defines distracted driving as “a form of impaired driving as a driver’s judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road.” Forms of distracted driving may include:

  • talking on a cell phone,
  • texting, typing or sending images with a cell phone,
  • reading,
  • applying makeup,
  • watching a video,
  • eating or drinking,
  • driving while fatigued (mentally or physically), or
  • talking to passengers.

Engaging in these types of activities while driving can lead to:

  • slower reaction time
  • impaired judgment
  • falling asleep behind the wheel
  • killing or injuring yourself, your passengers and/or other people

What is the law?

The RCMP has reported that cell phone use while driving is the number one cause of distracted driving in young adults. As a result, each province and territory in Canada (except for Nunavut) has created laws to address this problem. Distracted driving is an offence under provincial highway traffic law. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act makes it illegal talk, text, dial or email using hand-held phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices while driving. Furthermore, it is illegal to even simply hold a phone or other device while driving. You do not need to be operating it. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation,

“you can use any device that you do not touch, hold or manipulate while driving, other than to activate or deactivate it. Actions like dialing or scrolling through contacts are not allowed.”

Hand-held devices include:

  • cell phones
  • smart phones
  • ipods and MP3 players
  • GPS
  • laptops
  • DVD players
  • ignition interlock devices

Can you use your hand-held device while stopped at a stop light?

No. You must be stopped at the side of a road and not disrupting traffic or parked in order to legally use your hand-held device while in a vehicle.

Exceptions to the law

You may legally use a hand-held or other communication device while driving but only in the following circumstances:

  1. If you are calling 9-1-1 in an emergency, and
  2. If you are lawfully parked or have safely pulled off the road and are not impeding traffic.

As well, legislation generally does not apply to drivers of emergency vehicles in the performance of their duties, e.g. police officers, firefighters or ambulance attendants.

Penalties for distracted driving

In Ontario, if a driver is convicted of distracted driving, the penalty they will receive will depend on the type of licence the driver holds, and whether it is a first, second, or third and any further conviction.

A fully licenced driver (holder of Classes A to G and/or M licences) will receive:

First conviction:

  • If you settle out of court: a fine of $615 (includes a victim surcharge and court fee)
  • If you receive a summons or fight your ticket: fine of up-to $1,000
  • Three demerit points applied to your driver’s record
  • 3-day licence suspension

Second conviction:

  • If you settle out of court: a fine of $615 (includes a victim surcharge and court fee)
  • If you receive a summons or fight your ticket: fine of up-to $2,000
  • Six demerit points applied to your driver’s record
  • 7-day licence suspension

Third and any further conviction(s):

  • If you settle out of court: a fine of $615 (includes a victim surcharge and court fee)
  • If you receive a summons or fight your ticket: fine of up-to $3,000
  • Six demerit points applied to your driver’s record
  • 30-day licence suspension

A novice driver (holds a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence) will be subject to the same fines as drivers with A to G licences, except you will not receive any demerit points. Instead, you will receive the following:

  • a 30-day licence suspension for a first occurrence
  • a 90-day licence suspension for a second occurrence
  • cancellation of your licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third occurrence (to get licence back, the GLS program must be re-done)

It is important to note that a driver who endangers others because of distracted driving may also be charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act or dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.

Get help

For more information regarding these offences and the penalties they carry, go to 521 Careless driving, dangerous driving and criminal negligence. For more information regarding distracted driving in Ontario, visit the Ministry of Transportation website, or visit ontario.ca.

If you have a criminal record because of a criminal driving offence (or any other criminal charge), and wish to erase your record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

For help with a traffic ticket, contact our preferred Highway Traffic paralegals, Nicola (Nick) Giannantonio Legal Services.

A small traffic ticket can have big consequences.  Don’t take the risk.  Let our preferred traffic defence experts fight for you. Contact Calvin Barry Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .

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