“Your first offence now comes with a three-day driver’s licence suspension,” said Southern Georgian Bay OPP Const. David Hobson.
Ontario’s distracted-driving laws changed on Jan. 1, 2019, as the province implemented harsher penalties in an attempt to deter citizens from using hand-held devices behind the wheel.
A first conviction, if settled out of court, includes a fine of $615, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension.
A fine of up to $1,000 could be levied if you fight the ticket in court and lose. This cost would be on top of any legal fees associated with fighting the ticket in court.
A second conviction, within five years of the first, will result in a $615 ticket and a fine of up to $2,000 if you fight and lose in court. It also includes six demerit points and a seven-day licence suspension.
Hobson notes that the licence suspension is what will cause the most problems for anyone charged with distracted driving.
You will need to pay a $281 administrative fee to get your licence reinstated. Then, there are the implications such a charge will have on your car insurance.
“It is a reported suspension that your insurance company has full access to,” said Hobson. “It is permanently on your driver’s abstract.”
According to Dave Mink of Mink Insurance, insurance companies have increasingly taken distracted driving charges very seriously.
“Many insurance companies have taken a hard stance on distracted driving, whether talking, texting, eating or other things that take away your attention,” said Mink. “Some many not renew a client’s insurance if they find a distracted driving charge.”
Ontario’s distracted driving law — Section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act — applies to drivers using hand-held electronic devices on any roadway.
Under this law, it is illegal to use a phone or other hand-held device while driving, even if you are stopped in traffic at a red light.
Local officers are cracking down on drivers caught using their cellphone while driving. Tickets were even handed out to drivers stopped at a red light who reach over to plug their phone in.
“Picking your phone up, the act of holding onto it and plugging it in or checking your GPS is a violation and subject to a ticket,” said Hobson.
The exception is if you are picking up your phone to call police, fire or emergency medical personnel.
If your phone is mounted in a holder you are allowed to touch the screen to start or end a hands-free call.
In 2017 the Southern Georgian Bay OPP laid 131 distracted-driving charges. In 2018, there were 298 charges issued.
Through the first 10 months of 2019, there were 91 distracted-driving charges laid.
According to the Ontario Injury Prevention Practitioners Network, 23 percent of all fatal crashes in Canada involve distraction.