About Distracted Driving in Ontario
Distracted driving is one of the biggest issues on Ontario roadways today. It has surpassed impaired driving as the number one killer on the roads, and it is an issue that drivers need to take more seriously. 1 in 5 road fatalities are attributed to driving while distracted.
This is very concerning as distracted driving is preventable. If each driver were to do their part and be more dedicated to avoiding driving while distracted, countless accidents, injuries, and deaths could be prevented on Canadian roads.
As of January 1st, 2019, penalties for distracted driving in Ontario are increasing. Fines for distracted driving in Ontario are now among the highest in Canada.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is the act of driving while being distracted by other things or activities that take a driver’s attention away from the road. Mobile phones, texting, eating, talking with other passengers, changing the radio or GPS are common distractions.
Driving while distracted is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of an accident happening. It takes a driver’s eyes and attention off the road and compromises the safety of the driver, passengers, other vehicles, and pedestrians.
What Are the Distracted Driving Laws And Rules In Ontario?
The distracted driving laws in Ontario have changed quite a bit over the past few years. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, it is against the law to:
Hold a phone or mobile device while driving.
Operate handheld electronic devices while driving.
View display screens that are unrelated to driving.
Cell phones are not the only handheld devices that are restricted under the current Ontario distracted driving laws. Here are some common handheld devices that you should NEVER use while driving:
iPod or music players (mp3)
DVD (entertainment/video player)
iPads & tablets
Handheld video games
GPS (unless it is mounted)
Look at these stats:
Number One Cause of Accidents: According to the OPP, distracted driving is the number 1 cause of accidents in Ontario. It is estimated that 8 in 10 accidents are caused by distraction.
Deaths Have Doubled: Deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.
Person Injured Every 30 Mins: One person is injured from a distracted driving-related accident every 30 minutes.
Deaths Due to Inattentive Driving Are Rising: There were 65 deaths in 2016, 83 in 2017, and 692 since 2009 according to the OPP.
4 Times More Likely To Crash: A driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road (source).
Thousands of crashed in Toronto: Its estimated distracted driving caused 7,435 accidents in Toronto alone in 2016.
Tips to Avoid Distractions While Driving
Here are 11 great tips to stop being a distracted driver:
Start By Stowing Your Device: Since you know you can’t use your device when driving, begin your travel by turning off your phone and putting it out of reach – such as in your glove compartment. If you’re not sure you can resist the temptation to reach over and check messages – an especially dangerous move – store your device in your trunk.
Review Your Route: Take some time to study any maps and directions you have before you set out to drive. “Figuring it out along the way” is not an effective strategy to avoid distracted driving. After your review, CAA suggests you put all reading material in your trunk.
Pre-program Your GPS: If you have a global positioning system and know the address of your destination, program your GPS and determine your route beforehand. How is using a GPS not against the law if it’s a mobile device? As Section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act points out, a global positioning system navigation device is a specific exception. But programming your GPS while driving is against the law.
Tidy Up Your Vehicle: Remove anything not needed for your trip and secure any loose objects. Sliding objects when you turn a corner or brake firmly can be distracting. And dangerous.
Prepare the Kids and Yourself: Make sure children have everything they need at hand – reading materials, toys, food, and drink – before you go. And make sure you’re ready, too – including having all your personal grooming done before you get behind the wheel.
Secure Pets: If you don’t have a crate or a car barrier, consider purchasing a car harness or even a car seat to prevent your pet from jumping around in the vehicle. Keeping your pet restrained is important to both your safety and that of your pet.
Pre-set Climate Control and Radio: Okay, you’re finally almost ready to go. One more thing: ensure that your radio pre-sets are selected and that your climate control is set up before you pull out of the driveway.
Make a Passenger a Co-pilot: If you’ve got a passenger beside you, allow them to help you focus on driving. This can range from assisting with directions to selecting music to opening beverages for you.
Don’t Eat and Drive: While an open coffee or drink sitting next to you in a cup holder shouldn’t be much of a distraction, don’t eat or drink anything that requires you to open or unwrap it or otherwise distract you. Don’t even think of trying to eat that big and messy burger or ice cream cone while you’re behind the wheel.
Concentrate and Drive Actively: Scan the road. Keep checking your mirrors. Keeping two hands on the wheel will not only give you better control but results in less fatigue. Don’t let roadside activities – whether it’s a yard sale or a sign-waving clown – distract you.
Take Breaks: As a general rule, you should stop at least every two hours to take a break from driving. Not only can you get the necessary fuel for you, your fellow passengers, and your vehicle, but the rest and movement can help you can reenergize and refocus on the remainder of your trip.
What Are the Fines and Penalties for Distracted Driving In Ontario?
Distracted driving fines and penalties continue to change in Ontario. Drivers need to be aware of the repercussions of having a distracted driving charge on their record.
Drivers can no longer get away with a warning if caught driving while distracted. You will be fined and be subject to demerit points.
Fines can range from $615 to $3000, depending on how many convictions for distracted driving you have had. Additional penalties may include loss of license and dermit points scaled to the number of convictions you have received within 5 years.
Thanks to technology, we’ve never been as connected to each other and the outside world as we are today. But one thing you should keep in mind is that safety is paramount. The rest of the world can wait for you to reply to a text or phone call.
Arrive safely by making road safety a priority!
Excerpts courtesy of thinksure insurance