Queen’s Park passed new legislation June 4 that introduced new penalties for Ontarians convicted of distracted driving.
In an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, drivers who talk on the phone or text face an increased minimum and maximum fine of $300 and $1,000, up from $60 and $500. Convicted drivers will also get three demerit points.
Additional measures include extending drunk driving penalties to drug-impaired drivers, increasing penalties to repeat drunk drivers, more punishment for “dooring” cyclists, among other changes.
"Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America and this new legislation is intended to keep it that way,” said Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s minister of transportation.
“I look forward to continued collaboration with our law enforcement and other dedicated road safety partners to implement these measures," he said.
Under the changes, novice drivers (those still in the graduated system) face 30-day license suspensions if they’re caught texting or on the phone, 90 days on the second conviction, and a license cancellation (they have to start the process over) if they’re caught a third time.
"In Canada, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among people 15-24 years of age,” said Louise Logan, president and CEO of charitable organization Parachute Canada.
“Distracted driving has overtaken impaired driving as the leading cause for serious injuries. We all have a role to play,” she said.
Del Duca said before these changes become law this fall, the ministry of transportation will launch an education campaign to stress the fact that distracted driving has become the new drunk driving.
“People have to be constantly reminded that it is crucial to keep their eyes on the road,” Del Duca told reporters after the bill passed.