Ontario: Driver’s Talking/Texting Deadlier Than Impaired Drivers

Update:see previous post – October 4, 2013 Guelph: Court Rulings Mean Police Will Ticket When Motorist Simply Hold Their Phone

The Ontario Liberals are planning to dramatically alter the landscape with regard to distracted driving. A private member's bill has already reached the committee stage at second reading and could receive royal assent as of November and become law as early as February 2014.  This new bill, would alter the penalty for the use of hand-hand devices under section 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act.  The current fine of $155 would skyrocket to a minimum fine of $300 to a maximum fine of $700 and in addition to the new fine range, a driver would accumulate three (3) demerit points on their driving record.
The Ontario Liberals are planning to dramatically alter the landscape with regard to sanctions related to distracted driving (hand-held devices).  A private member’s bill (The short title of this Act is the Manoranjana Kanagasabapathy Act (Hand-Held Devices Penalty), 2013.) or Bill 116, has already reached the committee stage at second reading at Queen’s Park and could receive royal assent as early as November and could come into force on Ontario roads in February 2014. This new bill, would alter the penalty for the use of hand-hand devices under section 78.1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. The current fine of $155 would skyrocket to a minimum fine of $300 to a maximum fine of $700 and in addition to the new fine range, a driver would now accumulate three (3) demerit points on their driving record on top of the enormous fine. In May 2013 the highest court in the Province of Ontario, the Court of Appeal heard two appeals from two different cellphone cases and on September 27, 2013 and the Court upheld section 78.1(1) that states that holding a wireless device and not using it for the purposes that it was made for, is enough to convict under this section of the Highway Traffic Act. Bluetooth’s can expect a surge in sales between November & February.

see source

Motorists talking on cellphones or texting are killing more people on Ontario highways than impaired drivers, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says.

The organization’s Doug DeRabbie was speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park after MPPs of all political stripes urged the minority Liberal government and the legislature to introduce a demerit points for distracted drivers.

“We have looked at impaired driving versus distracted driving and actually there have been more fatalities recently with respect to distracted drivers as opposed to impaired driving,” DeRabbie said.

He noted that so far this year there have been some 50 fatalities in Ontario, compared to 30 caused by impaired driving.

Ontario banned the use of hand-held device four years ago when its introduced fines but no demerit points.

Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough-Rouge River) currently has a private member’s bill (Bill 116) before the legislature calling for demerits points in addition to increased fines for motorists nabbed for talking or texting on their phones.

“Just about everybody is supportive . . . I would say there is a real groundswell of support for this particular legislation. And it is absolutely needed,” Balkinsoon told Queen’s Park news conference.

Elliott Silverstein, of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) South Central Region, said more than 80 per cent of CAA members want to see stronger penalties, including demerit point for distracted driving infractions.

Some drivers of all ages, Silverstein said, look at the fines for distracted driving as the cost of doing business. But these same drivers will think twice if it affects their insurance premiums, he said.

“The result is that people are 23 times more likely to have an accident when they are texting and driving . . . so we need to make some changes to make Ontario’s road even safer,” he told reporters, adding that these drivers can react quickly enough.

Ottawa resident Rick Levesque, who initiated a province wide petition calling for changes to the Highway Traffic Act to incorporate demerit points, told the news conference that provinces, where such a change has been made, have seen a reduction in distracted driving.

“Somebody needs to do something,” said Levesque, who was thanked by Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) for his efforts.

Tory MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) said the average time to answer a phone call is 10.6 second and if a motorists is driving at 100 km/h that means they have covered 294 metres in that time, or three football fields.

“It is therefore no surprise that distracted driving has become the biggest road safety concern in Canada,” Yurek said.

This is Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough-Rouge River) private member’s bill:

Bill 116 2013 –  The short title of this Act is the Manoranjana Kanagasabapathy Act (Hand-Held Devices Penalty), 2013:

An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to increase the penalty for the use of hand-held devices while driving

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

1. Section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act is amended by adding the following subsections:

Penalty, fine

(6.1) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $700.

Penalty, demerit points

(6.2) If a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) or (2), the Registrar shall record three demerit points in respect of the person as of the date of commission of the offence.

Commencement

2. This Act comes into force on the day that is three months after the day this Act receives Royal Assent.

Short title

3. The short title of this Act is the Manoranjana Kanagasabapathy Act (Hand-Held Devices Penalty), 2013.

EXPLANATORY NOTE

The Bill amends the Highway Traffic Act to increase the penalty for driving a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device, a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device.

The penalty for each of these offences is increased to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $700. Offenders also receive three (3) demerit points for each offence.

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