Area of Law: Highway Traffic Law
Answer Number: 528
Distracted drivingRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 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,
- 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.
In Ontario, on September 1, 2015, the Highway Traffic Act was amended to make it illegal to talk, text, dial or email using hand-held phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices while driving.
Hand-held devices include:
- cell phones
- smart phones
- ipods and MP3 players
- DVD players
Exceptions to the law
You may legally use a hand-held or other communication device while driving but only in the following circumstances:
- If you are calling 9-1-1 in an emergency, and
- If you are lawfully parked or have safely pulled off the road and are not impeding traffic.
The law will also not apply if you use the following types of devices:
- a hands-free device, such as a cell phone using Bluetooth, but only to turn it on or off, or
- a secure, mounted device such as a phone or GPS.
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.
A fully licenced driver (holder of Classes A to G licences) or a hybrid driver (holder of a full-class licence and a novice licence such as Class G and M1) will receive:
- If you settle out of court: a fine of $490, (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
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, plus the following:
- a 30-day licence suspension for a first occurrence
- a 90-day licence suspension for a second occurrence
- cancellation of their licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third occurrence
Novice drivers will not receive demerit points.
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. For more information regarding these offences and the penalties they carry, go to 521 Careless driving, dangerous driving and criminal negligence.
For legal advice and representation if you have been charged with distracted driving, contact Mason Paralegal Services.
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