Distracted Driving Laws in Ontario – Effective January 1, 2019
The new Distracted Driving Laws in Ontario are in effect January 1, 2019 and the penalties are going up! When you aren’t focused on the road, things can happen – FAST
Many of us know that using your hand-held device while driving is illegal. However, there are many unanswered questions like; can I take a sip of my coffee while driving? Or can I change the radio station?
Here are some things you need to know about the new Distracted Driving Laws to ensure we keep our roads safe.
What is considered distracted driving?
Talking, texting, switching playlists, checking maps, reading books or documents, or simply holding onto a hand-held device is considered illegal. Touching, holding or manipulating any device while driving or stopped at a stop light is considered distracted driving and you can be fined. The driver must be pulled off the road and not impeding traffic, or legally parked to use their hand-held device.
If you have a cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth using voice-activated dialing, you can use it only to activate or deactivate “hands-free” functions provided that the device is mounted or secured. The same goes with a GPS. You cannot scroll through your contacts, dial from your phone or input a destination– this is considered illegal.
While eating, taking a sip of coffee, changing the radio station and smoking a cigarette are not considered illegal, they are still considered distractions while driving. (Depending on what you are doing you could be fined.)
What are the fines?
If you have a G, A, B, C, D, E, F, or M license, you can face the following on your first distracted driving conviction:
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Three demerit points
- A three day driver’s license suspension
For your second distracted driving conviction within 5 years:
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Six demerit points
- A seven-day driver’s license suspension
For your third and all subsequent distracted driving convictions within 5 years:
- A fine of up to $3,000
- Six demerit points
- A 30-day driver’s license suspension
Newer Drivers with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license will receive the same escalating fines as drivers but you won’t receive any demerit points. Instead of demerit points you will face the following:
- A 30 day license suspension for a first distracted driving conviction
- A 90 day license suspension for a second distracted driving conviction
- Cancellation of your license and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third distracted driving conviction.
Are there any exceptions to Ontario’s Distracted Driving law?
When driving, it is illegal to use any hand-held devices or view display screens unrelated to driving. However, here are some exceptions:
- Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency
- When the driver is off the road and not impeding traffic or is lawfully parked
If I have been convicted of Distracted Driving, what does that mean for my insurance?
Many Insurance companies are now starting to look at distracted driving charges as a major conviction. This can dramatically increase your insurance rates and affect your qualification with certain insurance companies. Insurance Companies are even taking into consideration those who received a distracted driving conviction prior to January 1, 2019 and will be rating their insurance policies according to the new rules. If you currently have a distracted driving conviction on your record you may still be affected by the new rules when your policy comes up for renewal.