Distracted Driving Penalties to Increase in 2019

Distracted driving is considered one of the primary causes of road accidents. Roop Sandhu, the OPP Const reports that over 83 fatalities in the last year were caused by distracted driving whereas 46 were due to drug and alcohol-related accidents.

In Ontario, the traffic police department is doing whatever it can to warn and prevent drivers from road accidents by implementing various punishments and road safety rules but have not been successful in reducing the number of casualties because most drivers do not pay attention.
The current penalty for distracted driving is $490 and three demerit points on the license. It was noticed that many drivers do not pay heed to or learn from the first offence and the numbers increased from by 21% in 2016 to 5,577 in 2017.

However, new campaigns are targeting distracted drivers with higher penalties, and the act is reported to come into effect from January 1, 2019. The late penalty would increase to $1000 and three days license suspension for the first offence and up to $2000 and a license suspension for seven days. With more crime, the fine would increase by $1000 and 30 days license suspension. The penalty will also expand to six demerit points for the repeated offence.

Distracted driving does not only imply the use of cell phones or electronic devices while driving but also eating or drinking while driving, putting on make-up, turning backwards, fiddling with other things or performing any other activities that distract the attention away from the road. So people checking their phone to check a quick message or update social media are at risk of getting a ticket.

The change aims to bring more awareness to distracted driving and the severity of the consequences. The York Regional Police have even initiated creative ads and videos to increase the awareness campaign in Ontario.