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Distracted Driving Update

  Charlie Charalambous

As many of you have probably already heard, Ontario has announced new distracted driving laws that are scheduled to take effect on January 1st, 2019. With the increase in distracted driving collisions, this new law is long overdue. Did you know that according to provincial road statistics, one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half hour?

Driving always requires your full attention. With so many distractions such as other drivers and changing road and weather conditions, do you really want to add more while driving?

With this new law, drivers that are convicted of distracted driving will now be punished with licence suspensions, fines, and demerit points. These penalties will increase depending on the number of subsequent offences:

  • 1st offence: 3-day suspension and a $1000 fine
  • 2nd offence: 7-day suspension and a $2000 fine
  • 3rd offence: 30-day suspension, $3000 fine and six demerit points

Distraction, as many of us already know, is not limited to just the use of a cell phone while in a vehicle. The Ontario government has posted a list of activities that are now deemed as a distraction. These include:

  • Holding an electronic device in your hands while driving
  • Using a cell phone to talk, text, check texts and change playlists
  • Eating
  • Reading books or documents
  • Typing destinations into your GPS

Another important factor that drivers should remember is that any of the items listed above are considered distractions regardless of if you are driving on the highway or stopped at a red light. Remember, you are still on a roadway. Being stuck in traffic or waiting for a light to change does not mean you can now check your phone for messages.

Drivers still can use hands-free (Bluetooth) and mounted devices but only if they are turning it on or off. While this new law is specific only to Ontario, every province and territory has its own set of rules so be sure to know the rules of the jurisdiction you are travelling in. Please be sure to avoid any distraction while you are driving. Recent studies show that distracted driving causes more crashes in Ontario than intoxication and speeding combined.

If you are travelling 100 km/h, this is equal to 28 meters per second. According to a CAA study, checking your text message takes approximately 5 seconds. So, if we do the math, travelling at 100 km/h, you have now travelled 140 meters (460 feet). That is longer than the length of an NFL field or over two times the length of a regulation NHL hockey rink!

What are some of the things that you can do to before you start driving to help limit distractions?

  • Always allow for plenty of travel time – you never know if you’ll get caught in traffic
  • Have your destination(s) pre-programmed on your GPS
  • Stow and secure any loose objects
  • Avoid nearby distractions that you can control (texting, phone calls, eating, etc.)

Driving requires our attention and focus at all times, whether it is the law or just a best practice. Please do what you can to limit your distractions while driving.

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