Harsher distracted driving penalties in effect

Tough new measures designed to make Ontario roads safer – including stiffer penalties for distracted driving – are now in effect.

As of January 1st, drivers caught using handheld electronic devices will be fined up to $1,000, penalized three demerit points and handed a three-day licence suspension. For a second offence within five years, distracted drivers will be fined up to $2,000, penalized six demerit points and lose their licence for six days.

Deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000, the provincial government reports. According to 2013 collision statistics, one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour and a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has added its voice to the call to put safety first. “Distracted driving has contributed to a greater than 10 per cent increase in the frequency of vehicle damage claims made in the province over the last five years,” says Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario. “For safety’s sake, IBC urges you to encourage anyone you know who engages in this risky behaviour to drive more carefully.”

Also beginning January 1, the provincial government has increased penalties to $250 (first offence), $350 (second offence) and $450 (third and subsequent offence) for having a blood alcohol concentration that is 0.05 or higher, failing a roadside sobriety test or violating the zero tolerance requirements for young, novice and commercial drivers.

It has also introduced a $550 penalty for refusing to take a drug or alcohol test if you register a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines you’re impaired. Finally, the cost of getting a suspended licence reinstated has increased from $198 to $275.

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