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Published August 26, 2020

Currently under Stage 3 of Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan, many Canadians are back to work after several months working remotely. After so much time indoors, it’s easy for drivers to feel rusty and lazy behind the wheel. Nevertheless, staying aware of the Ontario distracted driving law is important any time, even more so after lockdown.

Back in May, CTV News cited a 22% increase in fatalities on OPP patrolled roads in Ottawa and eastern Ontario so far this year 1. The article further cited that four motorists died in crashes related to inattentive driving, a figure up from one death last year. With distracted driving in Ontario on the rise, there’s no better time to remind Canadian drivers of their responsibilities when returning to work by road.

When was the Ontario distracted driving law last updated?

The Ontario distracted driving law was last updated on January 1, 2019. Ultimately, harsher punishments are now handed to those abusing their rights on the road.

2020 Ontario distracted driving law – What offences exist?

Everybody has an idea of what constitutes distracted driving in their heads. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the enforceable definition as coined by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

“Distracted driving” is currently defined as the improper use of handheld communication / entertainment devices while behind the wheel. In 2020, it’s illegal to:

  • Operate cell phones to talk, text, type, dial or email
  • Operate a tablet, laptop, music player or portable gaming console
  • View unrelated display screens (e.g. A YouTube video)
  • Program a GPS device by hand

What if I need to use a handheld device in an emergency?

Never rely on hearsay regarding distracted driving. It’s always more beneficial to arm yourself with the proper facts. This includes recognizing activities that do not constitute distracted driving too. In 2020, it’s perfectly acceptable to:

  • Dial 911 in an emergency
  • Operate hands-free wireless communication devices with an earpiece, lapel button or Bluetooth
  • View securely mounted or dashboard-based GPS devices

Distracted driving vs. careless driving: What’s the difference?

Half way through reading this blog post, you may be thinking that eating food or smoking haven’t been mentioned yet. In reality, these activities aren’t currently part of the Ontario distracted driving law. However, if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident and you were doing these things, you could be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

Sometimes, these activities take place when Canadian drivers apply cruise control to maintain a consistent speed when there is little to no traffic. However, cruise control should always be used responsibly. Other careless driving offences to avoid include drinking, grooming, reaching for objects and reading.

What Ontario distracted driving fines exist in 2020?

For drivers holding licences A to G (plus M), first time offenders now receive up to a $1,000 fine, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. For repeat offenders, the fines are harsher. A second offence sees up to a $2,000 fine, six demerit points and a seven-day licence suspension imposed. Elsewhere, a third offence sees up to a $3,000 fine, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension.

Novice drivers aren’t above the law either. Essentially, new road users face the same distracted driving fines as experienced drivers. The only exception is that demerit points aren’t withdrawn. Nevertheless, longer licence suspensions are imposed in their place. For first time offenders, there’s a 30-day suspension whereas second time offenders face a 90-day suspension. Wondering about third time offenders? When this happens, a novice drivers’ licence will be cancelled with swift removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS).

Get the car or bicycle accident compensation you deserve with MG Law

Unfortunately, car and bicycle accidents can occur any time and any place in Ontario. But there’s no need to feel alone. If you’ve been the victim of a car or bicycle accident, our experienced lawyers will help you navigate the legal, insurance and healing processes. This way, you can get your life back on track.

Call (613) 730-8640 to learn more. Never suffer at the expense of distracted driving. Do something about it by contacting MG Law.


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