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How many times have you stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green, when you notice the driver beside you talking or texting on a cellphone? The advent of the original distracted driving laws resulted in many drivers simply concealing the device on their lap to avoid detection. The likely result is that the driver, who is not paying attention to the light cycle, will frequently miss or make you miss your turn signal or green light. 

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The next predicable action is the motorist(s) behind such drivers will start to honk the horn in a desperate attempt to get you back to reality and to pay attention.

The distracted driver is not paying attention to the actions of other motorists, including pedestrians and cyclists who may also be talking and/or texting while proceeding into a dangerous intersection. 

This is a daily recipe for a tragedy, which happens far too frequently!

Using your phone to talk, text, to check map or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving – and they put you and others that you share the roadway with at risk.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a highway or stopped at a red light – distracted driving will eventually cost you – it’s just a matter of time!

The easiest way to avoid penalties for distracted driving is to simply not use a hand-held device when you’re behind the wheel.

 

What exactly is distracted driving?

Well, there are really three main types of distraction:

  1. A visual distraction where you end up taking your eyes off the road.
  2. A manual distraction where you end up taking your hands off the wheel in order to perform a specific function.
  3. A cognitive distraction where you end up taking your mind off what you’re doing.

I call this looking, but not seeing or otherwise known as ‘The Deer in the Headlight Syndrome!'

 

Distracted driving is any non-driving activity that you engage in while operating a vehicle. Such activities have the potential to distract you from your primary task of driving, which translates into a higher risk of a crash.

Drivers of all ages are using a variety of hand-held devices, such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, and GPS devices, when they are behind the wheel.

Crash statistics have clearly shown that cell phone use while driving, whether it’s a hands-free or hand-held device, will impair your ability to drive safely. You’re more likely to miss key visual and/or audio cues needed to avoid a crash. Hand-held devices may be slightly worse, but hands-free devices are clearly not risk-free. 

In response to this growing risk, many provincial and state jurisdictions have implemented countermeasures to reduce fatalities and crashes by identifying ways to address distracted driving.

The Province of Ontario is once again one of the leading jurisdictions to deter this type of behavior. 

 

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Starting this calendar year, if you’re caught distracted behind the wheel in Ontario you will be subject to harsher penalties, including but not limited to a license suspension, more demerit points, and a hike in fines if convicted of this offense. 

Hopefully these new rules will encourage you to remain focused on driving, and keep devices far from your reach when operating a vehicle.

Incidents of distracted driving crashes continue increase almost a decade after the initial legislation banning such behavior.

The new fines and penalties are some of the strongest in North America.  The goal is to make road conditions safer for all motorists on a highway.

The following fines and penalties that came into effect for distracted drivers in Ontario on January 1, 2019 include the following:

The minimum fine for distracted driving will increase from $490 to $615.

  • 1st conviction = 3-day license suspension, 3 demerit points and a minimum fine of $615;
  • 2nd conviction = 7-day license suspension, 6 demerit points and a minimum fine up to $2000;
  • 3rd or subsequent conviction = 30-day license suspension, 6 demerit points and a minimum fine up to $3000.

 

If you are a novice driver, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as the above, but you won’t receive any demerit points.  Rather, you’ll face longer suspensions including the ability to actually get your license:

  • 30-day license suspension for a first conviction;
  • 90-day license suspension for a second conviction;
  • Cancellation of your novice license for a third conviction, and you’ll have to start over from scratch!

 

Included below is a table that describes the different types of devices, and the associated exemptions and restrictions.

Device Type

Exemptions/ Restrictions

1.     Hand-Held Unit while holding or using the device

·        Receiver and microphone

·        Push-to-talk function

·        Set frequency

·        Voice communication is allowed

·        Simultaneous transmission & reception not allowed

·        Device exemption for pressing buttons

o   Worn on head

o   Hung over or placed inside ear

o   Attached to clothing

·        Law enforcement and other personnel

exemptions as listed below

·        Usage allowed, but only to activate or deactivate the hands-free function of a mounted or secured device

·        Actions such dialing or scrolling through a device is prohibited.

2.     Mobile Data Display Screens

·        Computerized device

·        Exclusive communication with Dispatcher or control center

·        Device must be securely mounted so that it does not move while vehicle in motion

·        Drivers of commercial motor vehicles

·        Courier delivery vehicles

·        Roadside assistance service vehicles

·        Taxicabs/Limo’s

o   licensed by a municipality or Airport authority

o   Provide passenger service

3.     Two-way radio while holding or using the device

·        Wireless communication device

·        Main receiver unit

·        Separate hand-held microphone

·        Push-to-talk function

·        Set frequency

·        Voice communication  is allowed

·        Simultaneous transmission & reception not allowed

·        Device exemption for pressing buttons

o   Worn on head

o   Hung over or placed inside ear

o   Attached to clothing

Note:  Exemptions are revoked on January 1, 2021

A.    Time-limited public function exemption

·        Public Utility

·        Electrical Transmitter/Distributor

·        Road authority

 

B.     Time-limited prescribed commercial activities exemption

·        Drivers of commercial motor vehicles

·        Courier delivery vehicles

·        Roadside assistance service vehicles

·        Taxicabs/Limo’s

o   licensed by a municipality or Airport authority

o   Provide passenger service

·        Street car operators

·        Road-building machines

·        Over-dimensional escort vehicles

·        Drivers with a valid radio operator certificate

4.     Display Screen Exemption

·        Computer

·        Other device

·        Visible to the driver

·        Device securely must be mounted so that it does not move while vehicle in motion

·        Law enforcement personnel

·        Fire

·        Guard

·        Road Authority

·        Telecommunications

·        Technicians/ Mechanics test driving a vehicle

·        Public Utility

·        Electrical Transmitter/Distributor

5.     Prescribed Display Screens

·        Device securely must be mounted so that it does not move while vehicle in motion

·        Device displaying vehicle, road or weather conditions

·        Ignition interlock device

·        Car audio controls

o   Only text or static images are allowed

·        Hand-held device

o   Only text or static images are allowed

·        Direct vehicle connection

o   operates using the audio system controls of the vehicle

 

 


 

Distracted Driving Penalties by Canadian Jurisdiction

Province or Territory

Penalties

Demerits

Distracted Driving Links

Alberta

$287

3

https://bit.ly/1aLOOZI

British Columbia

$543 - 1st offense
$888 - 2nd offense

4

https://bit.ly/2zaV6GT

Manitoba

$672

5

https://bit.ly/2R8dybt

New Brunswick

$172.50

3

https://bit.ly/2CGhZ7Q

Newfoundland and Labrador

$100 - $400

4

https://bit.ly/2R8ucaP

 

Northwest Territories

$322 - $644

3

https://bit.ly/2FJqRxx

Nova Scotia

$233.95 - 1st offense
$348.95 - 2nd offense
$578.95 - subsequent offenses

4

https://bit.ly/2FHXnQN

 

Nunavut

N/A

N/A

No Law

Ontario

$615 - $3000

3 - 6

https://bit.ly/28MTQw1

Prince Edward Island

$572 - $1275

5

https://bit.ly/2CGWtjH

Quebec

$300 - $600

5

https://bit.ly/2MsK0Vg

Saskatchewan

$280

4

https://bit.ly/2oi1CYU

Yukon

$500

3

https://bit.ly/2FUFq0C

 

 


 

United State Laws on Distracted Driving

Ban on Hand-Held Devices & Texting While Driving

State

AL

AK

AZ

AR

CA

CO

CT

DE

DC

Total

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

 

 

 

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

4

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

 

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

8

State

FL

GA

HI

ID

IL

IN

IA

KS

KY

Total

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

 

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

 

2

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

9

State

LA

ME

MD

MA

MI

MN

MS

MO

MT

Total

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

 

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

7

State

NE

NV

NH

NJ

NM

NY

NC

ND

OH

 

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

4

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

9

State

OK

OR

PA

RI

SC

SD

TN

TX

 

 

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

 

 

2

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

8

State

UT

VT

VA

WA

WV

WI

WY

PR

 

 

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

Y

 

Y

Y

 

 

Y

 

4

Ban on texting for all drivers

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

8

State

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Total

Ban on hand-held devices for all drivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

Ban on texting for all drivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

49

 

KEY: Y = Yes.                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                       

NOTES                                                                                                                     

A primary law means that an officer can ticket the driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place. A secondary law means an officer can only issue a ticket if a driver has been pulled over for another violation (like speeding).

Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 15 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws—an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.

Text Messaging: Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement. Of the 4 states without an all driver texting ban.

                                                                                                                       

SOURCE                                                                                                                  

Governors Highway Safety Association, Distracted Driving, Distracted Driving Laws by State, available at  http://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/Distracted-Driving as of May 9, 2018.

  Jan 31, 2019     Marc Moncion

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