Distracted Driving Legislation in the Works

Distracted driving encompasses any activity that takes the motorist’s attention off the road and distracts the driver. Ontario banned distracted driving in 2009 because police officers were seeing an increase in the number of traffic accidents that were caused by drivers who were not paying attention to the road.

Police forces across the province have been enforcing the law since 2010 by issuing fines to distracted drivers. Fines for distracted driving currently range from $60 to $500 while set fines are $155.

In August of this year, a cube van collided with a TTC bus that was stopped at a red light at Middlefield Rd. and Steeles Ave. E. According to the media, the truck driver may have been using his cellular phone at the time of the accident. One Scarborough resident was killed in that avoidable tragedy while 9 others were hospitalized.

An Ontario Provincial Police report states that distracted driving is a factor in 30% to 50% of all traffic collisions province-wide. Motorists who talk on their mobile phones while driving are 4- to 5-times more likely to be involved in automobile collisions whereas drivers who text and drive are 23-times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada where drivers do not lose demerit points if convicted of a distracted driving offense – but that is about to change.

Bill 116, the Manoranjana Kanagasabapathy Act, was introduced in the Ontario Legislature. The aim of this Private Member’s Bill is to increase the penalty for drivers convicted of distracted driving. The Bill proposes increasing fines from a range of $60 to $500 to a new, higher range of $300 to $700. This amendment of the Highway Traffic Act will also cost convicted distracted drivers 3 demerit points. Losing demerit points would result in convicted distracted drivers paying higher insurance premiums over the long-term.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled that holding a mobile phone while driving for any period of time is illegal and is a violation of the Highway Traffic Act. The best way to avoid being involved in a fatal collision is to put your cellular phone away while driving and pay attention to the road.