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Time to start shaming your friends for distracted driving in Ontario

Contrary to what you might tell yourself, you can’t do 2 things at once, according to neuroscientists Yet, 53% of Canadians admit to distracted driving using their cell phone in a recent study by Desjardins Insurance. Sadly, it’s trending in the wrong direction, up an astonishing 38% from last year. 

It gets worse. Nearly all respondents went on to say they “rarely or never drive distracted by a cell phone,” but 84% of them say they see other people using a cell phone while driving. The takeaway being we believe ourselves to be above the law, it’s everyone else that’s the problem. 

Distracted driving in Ontario needs to be a social faux-pas, much like drinking and driving. On January 1st, 2019  the government instituted new laws and fines for distracted driving.

What is the fine for distracted driving in Ontario?

The fine for distracted driving in Ontario is $1,000. It also includes a 3 day license suspension and 3 demerit points negatively impacting your auto insurance

But, if you have more than one distracted driving conviction, your fine increases to $2,000 with a 7 day licence suspension, and 6 demerit points. More than two convictions and that fine jumps to $3,000 and a thirty day suspension.  

If you have a g1, or g2 license, there are no demerit points lost. Instead, you face an immediate 30 day suspension, then a 60 day suspension on 2nd conviction. If you get hit with a 3rd conviction, you’ll be removed from the graduated licensing program all together. 

The first distracted driving ticket will stay on record for 2 years. Depending on the conviction, you could fall into the high-risk driver category and that $1,000 fine is only part of the financial pain. Let’s look at how car insurance quotes in Ontario might change for a driver without a distracted driving charge versus one who recently received one. 

We’ll use a 40-year-old male in Toronto driving a Honda HRV, a comprehensive insurance package, with no discounts like bundling or professional affiliations and put it into our auto insurance calculator.  Without the ticket they pay about $2,300 per year. However, with that one ticket and the annual rate jumps to $2,700.  So, our driver is paying at least another $800 for 2 years and hopefully, once the ticket comes off the record, they can find some cheaper car insurance. However, the driver could also face a conviction for careless driving causing their car insurance to triple or quadruple. 

Distracted driving isn’t only for cell phone use while driving in Canada, though. 

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What is considered distracted driving in Ontario? 

Distracted driving is illegal whether you’re in traffic, waiting at a red light, or driving.

You cannot use a phone or other hand-held devices to text or dial. You can’t watch a video or play video games.  If you use a GPS device, you can only use its voice commands. 

Eating, drinking, smoking, or reaching for things are not part of the distracted driving law in Ontario. But, you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving. A major offence with higher fines and penalties. 

The Bottom Line

The Desjardins survey went on to say that 25% of fatal crashes in Canada involve distraction. In 2015, over 350 people died in distracted driving collisions. Ontario statistics show a distracted driver will injure one person (pedestrian, cyclist, or driver) every half hour. The fines are high, it’s time we face up to these sobering realities and put the cell phones down and shame our friends who don’t.