Distracted driving penalties increased

LONDON – As of Jan. 1, the penalties for distracted driving have increased for motorists in Ontario. 

Distracted driving includes any behaviour that takes the operator’s attention away from operating their vehicle.

Police say there are three main types of distraction:

– visual – taking your eyes off the road;

– manual – taking your hands of the wheel; and

– cognitive – taking your mind off what you’re doing.

If charged and convicted, distracted drivers will now receive a fine of $615 if settled out of court ($1,000 if a summons is received or the ticket is fought and lost in court) plus three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. The penalties are more severe for subsequent convictions.

Novice drivers (G1, G2, M1 or M2) convicted of distracted driving will receive the same fines, but will receive longer licence suspensions, as opposed to demerit points.

“These new penalties are the direct result of needless tragedies,” stated Staff Sergeant Brian Knowler of the OPP West Region. 

“Distracted driving continues to be one of the biggest threats on Ontario roadways, and all road users have a part to play in road safety efforts.”

Drivers who cause a collision or exhibit very poor driving directly related to being inattentive (eating, drinking, reading a map, etc.) could be charged with careless driving, the fines and demerit points for which remain unchanged.

Police are encouraging all drivers to “start 2019 off the right way” and put down their phone, focus on the road and drive according to weather and road conditions. 

To report a driver immediately call 9-1-1. For non-emergencies, dial 1-888-310-1122, anywhere in Ontario.