Update: see previous posts – February 26, 2014 – Ontario: Chief Justice Increases Distracted Driving Fines to $280 on March 18, 2014, November 6, 2013 Ontario: Driver’s Talking/Texting Deadlier Than Impaired Drivers, October 24, 2013 Ontario: Liberals Will Increase Sanctions (Demerit Points) Against Driver’s On Their Cells, October 4, 2013 Guelph: Court Rulings Mean Police Will Ticket When Motorist Simply Hold Their Phone, September 27, 2013 Ontario: Highest Court of Ontario Rules Simply “Holding” a Cellphone in Vehicle is Sufficient to Convict, August 16, 2013 Toronto: Motorists Using Phones to Talk,Text,Email Four Years After Law Prohibing It
Distracted Laws/Demerits/Fines in Canada
Since 2008, every province and territory in Canada — with the exception of Nunavut — has created laws to deal with cellphone use by drivers.
|Location||What is banned?||Demerit||Fine|
|B.C.||Hand-held devices, plus novice drivers using hands-free equipment||3||$167|
|Alberta||Holding or viewing a communications device, reading, writing and any other distraction||None||$172|
|Sask.||Hand-held communication equipment, plus novice drivers going hands-free||4||$280|
|Manitoba||Hand-held electronic devices||None||$199.80|
|Ontario||Hand-held wireless communication devices||None*||$280*|
|Quebec||Hand-held devices that include a phone function, plus using it hands-free||3||$115-154|
|N.B.||Hand-held electronic devices||3||$172.50|
|Nova Scotia||Hand-held cell phones, plus text messaging on any device||None||$164-$337|
|P.E.I.||Hand-held wireless communication devices||3||$250-400|
|N.L.||Hand-held cell phones, plus text messaging on any device||4||$100-400|
|Yukon||Hand-held devices for talking, texting and emailing, plus graduated licence holders can’t go hands-free||3||$250|
|N.W.T.||Hand-held electronic devices||3||$100|
Source: Transport Canada, CAA
*Drivers endangering others by using hand-held or hands-free devices can be charged with careless driving, which brings fines up to $2,000. Under proposed legislation, judges would be able to fine offenders between $300 and $1,000 for distracted driving alone and add demerit points to the driver’s provincial licence.
Drivers who text behind the wheel face fines of up to $1,000 and three demerit points under tough new provincial legislation coming this fall.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the sweeping law aimed at curbing distracted driving will be introduced after the legislature resumes Oct. 20.
“It’s an increase on the fines and also the demerit points,” Del Duca said in an interview Monday.
In fact, scofflaws in Ontario would be slapped with the stiffest penalties in Canada for talking or texting on handheld cellphones while driving.
“We’ve seen tremendous improvements over the years about impaired driving. We definitely do have to raise awareness — particularly amongst younger drivers — with respect to texting and driving and distracted driving,” the minister said.
“Part of it is increasing the fines, part of it is the demerit points and part of it is obviously a very aggressive, robust public awareness campaign to make sure people understand about the dangers.”
Del Duca said Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government plans to revive a bill introduced last March by his predecessor Glen Murray that failed to pass before the June 12 election.
“I look forward to reintroducing this legislation and getting it passed as soon as possible. I think it has broad support in the legislature — it certainly seemed to when it was introduced last time.”
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Vince Hawkes told the Star that distracted-driving deaths have surpassed those caused by impaired driving.
Last year, distracted driving contributed to the deaths of 78 people compared to 57 for impaired driving and 44 for accidents related to speeding.
“It is a huge loss of life. It is such a waste. It’s one of those things it is frustrating to see,” the province’s top cop said.
Hawkes noted Monday that his officers will be conducting a blitz against distracted drivers this Labour Day long weekend on Ontario’s 400 series highways.
The OPP laid 19,000 distracted-driving charges in 2013, up from 16,000 the year before.
Toronto police laid 55,000 distracted driving charges between 2010 and 2012 and at least three auto-related deaths over the past two years are blamed on cellphone use.
Del Duca’s bill would hike fines from the $60 to $500 range to between $300 and $1,000 and three demerit points. Currently no points are accumulated for using a smartphone while driving.
By comparison, in British Columbia, fines are up to $167 plus three demerit points; in Alberta it’s $172 with no points; in Quebec, it’s between $115 to $154 and three points; and in New Brunswick, it’s $172.50 and three points.
The proposed legislation would also impose similar sanctions for drivers who door cyclists.
A motorist convicted of injuring a bike rider with their car door would see the fine go from the $60 to $500 range to between $300 and $1,000 and three demerit points instead of two.
The demerit points could prove most costly for motorists as they can affect auto insurance rates.
An experienced driver who accumulates between two and eight points will be sent a warning letter; nine to 14 points could lead to an interview with Ministry of Transportation officials and a possible licence suspension.
Fifteen or more points will lead to the loss of a licence for 30 days.
Demerit points are even more punitive for new drivers.
Two to five points leads to a warning letter; six to eight to an interview or suspension; and nine or more points to the loss of driving privileges for 60 days.
Del Duca’s legislation is also expected to force drivers to maintain a one-metre distance when passing cyclists.
As well, it would require motorists to wait at school crossings and other crosswalks until pedestrians have completely traversed the width of the roadway.
Last February, Annemarie Bonkalo, chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, issued a judicial order raising distracted driving fines for the first time since 2009.
At the time, the chief justice’s office said she upped the penalty “in light of the significant public interest in encouraging driver safety.”