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Distracted driving in Ontario: the law and your insurance

Distracted driving (especially texting and driving) causes more deaths in Canada than impaired driving. It’s why every province and territory has laws against driving while operating a cell phone, with the exception of Nunavut. Distracted driving fines range from $80 to $1,200, and some provinces scale them up for subsequent offences. If caught, demerit points will also be added to your license.

It’s important to practice safe driving for your own sake and that of your fellow drivers. Here’s what you need to know, plus some tips to help keep you in tune with road safety (and earning better car insurance rates!).

 

The distracted driving fine in Ontario

Are you prepared for the new distracted driving law in Ontario introduced in 2018? It took effect in January 2019, and it adds serious penalties to Ontario’s list of traffic tickets and fines.

Drivers with a full G or M license pulled over for distracted driving can expect these fines.

  1. A $490 fine if everything is settled out of court.
  2. A $1,000 fine if you received a court summons and are convicted.
  3. 3 demerit points added to your record.
  4. A 3-day license suspension for the first conviction.

The second distracted driving conviction will receive these fines.

  1. a $2,000 fine.
  2. a 7-day license suspension.
  3. 6 demerit points added to your record (in addition to the other 3 the first time).

 

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Drivers caught in their first texting and driving accident can expect these fines.

  1. $3,000 in fines.
  2. A license suspension for 30 days.
  3. 6 demerit points.

Novice drivers holding a G1, G2, M1, or M2 license can still be convicted of distracted driving, but won’t receive demerit points. Instead, they will receive these convictions.

  1. A 30-day license suspension for the first conviction.
  2. A 90-day license suspension for the second conviction.
  3. A complete license cancellation and removal.

Distracted driving is a major conviction in Ontario. The new laws revoke novice driver’s licenses after the third conviction, which means you’ll need to start at the very beginning of the program again to earn your G1 and G2 before trying for the full G license. The same applies to motorcycle drivers with M1 and M2 licenses.

 

Does texting while driving affect insurance?

You bet it does. If you’re caught texting and driving, then fines and a license suspension won’t be the end of your worries. Your insurance provider will hear about it too, and your rates will go up—for a pretty long time, too. Insurance companies check driving records to see who’s a safe driver and who isn’t. Having a distracted driving charge on your record would likely increase your rates to reflect the risk of that unsafe behaviour.

Distracted driving and insurance rates don’t mix in Ontario.

Serious convictions like that can stay on your driving record for a long time, and insurers will still consider them 6-8 years after they happen—even if those convictions are removed from your driver’s abstract (a government record). It’s just one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t text and drive.

Our advice: just focus on the road.

 

Changes to the distracted driving law in Ontario

Ontario’s distracted driving law has been updated with more severe penalties for distracted driving because the number of distracted driving charges rose 21% between 2016 and 2017 in key areas, like York.

The changes reflect mobile technology’s impact on our roads, which is why the province introduced cell phone laws into Ontario in 2019. Fines for texting and driving are higher, and license suspensions for multiple convictions have become as long as 30 days on the third time, as well as the legal use of cannabis and how it can affect driving behaviour. Using a cell phone while driving in Ontario now carries serious repercussions as a result.

 

The new texting and driving law in Ontario

You can still use technology in the car, but the new driving laws in Ontario tighten the restrictions on how this works. You can still use:

  1. Hands-free devices like a Bluetooth headset. Turning it on and off is fine.
  2. Firmly mounted devices that won’t move around in the vehicle a

With that said, it’s still important to note that dialing a number or entering a password on your phone or tablet still counts as distracted driving, so we cannot stress enough how important it is to adjust the hands-free settings on your devices ahead of time.

This makes it a lot easier to receive a call than to place one while driving, and that’s kind of the point. If you need to place a call then do it while you’re parked or pulled over. Doing so will save you from fines, demerit points, and higher insurance rates down the road.

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Important facts about texting and driving

Here are some sobering texting and driving statistics to put it into perspective:

  1. Checking your phone increases the chance of an accident by eight times.
  2. Over 25% of reported car accidents involve a phone, including hands-free phones, but they’re still under-reported.
  3. Drivers using phones fail to process 50% of their road environments.
  4. Distracted driving causes 4,000,000 car accidents per year in North America.
  5. Distraction accounts for 60% of moderate and severe crashes involving teens.

Texting and driving in Ontario is serious, and it’s more widespread than most of us think.

When it comes to the act of texting while driving, the numbers are staggering. People who text and drive are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash or near-miss event over long periods of time. About 26% of all reported crashes involve the use of a phone, which includes hands-free devices.

How about some math? If you stare at your phone for five seconds while driving 90km/h, you’ll have traveled the length of a football field without looking. On top of that, drivers who are distracted by their phone only take in an estimated 50% of the visual information available to them.

 

Other distracted driving facts

Distractions are deadly. Distracted driving is a contributing factor in about four million automobile collisions in North America each year. That means about 80% of car crashes in total involve some form of inattention. Distractions are also a factor behind 10% of fatal crashes and 18% of crashes that cause injury.

As far as teenage drivers (15-19) go, nearly 60% of moderate-to-severe crashes involving teens were affected by distractions. Sadly, almost half of all people killed in teen distraction-related crashes were teens themselves

The economic losses due to health care costs and loss of productivity as a result of car crashes exceeds $19 billion each year. Add on the social consequences, which includes direct and indirect costs as well as pain and suffering, and that figure climbs to $25 billion annually.

 

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How to avoid driving distractions

Car accident reports will affect your insurance, so it’s well worth the effort to avoid colliding with anything on the road (personal and public safety aside). There are several things you can do to avoid a distracted driving incident either before you drive or while driving.

 

Before you drive

  1. Give yourself plenty of time so you’re not worried about being late.
  2. Set your GPS device and review map directions so you’re not doing it while driving.
  3. If you’re driving with children, make sure they have everything they need before heading out.
  4. Secure any loose objects so you’re not handling them while on the road.

 

While you’re driving

  1. Don’t text, check email, or use any phone apps.
  2. Let every incoming call go to voicemail; they can all wait.
  3. Don’t apply makeup, style your hair, or check yourself out in the rear-view mirror.
  4. Try not to eat or drink while driving.
  5. Keep both hands on the wheel at all times for more control when you need it.

 

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. Just remember all of the information above and make road safety a priority!


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