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Distracted driving can be deadly

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on November 20th, 2023

Statistics are grim: It's estimated that 8 in 10 accidents are caused by distraction.

Deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000. One person is injured from a distracted driving-related accident every 30 minutes. And you’re 23 times more likely to get in a collision if you are texting and driving.

In Ontario, it’s against the law to use hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while driving.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, simply holding a phone or other device while driving is against the law. And texting distracts you physically, visually and cognitively.

While you are driving, including when you are stopped in traffic or at a red light, it’s illegal to:

  • use a phone or other hand-held wireless communication device to text or dial – you can only touch a device to call 911 in an emergency
  • use a hand-held electronic entertainment device, such as a tablet or portable gaming console
  • view display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video
  • program a GPS device, except by voice commands

You can use:

  • Hands-free wireless communications devices with an earpiece, lapel button or Bluetooth.
  • You can view GPS display screens as long as they are built into your vehicle’s dashboard or securely mounted on the dashboard.

Remember that actions such as eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading and reaching for objects are not part of Ontario’s distracted driving law, but you can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

And, keep in mind, Young Drivers of Canada says other possible driver distractions outside a vehicle can include:

  • Scenery
  • Cyclists
  • Other vehicles
  • Construction
  • Motorcycles
  • Street noise
  • Reading advertisements
  • Pedestrians
  • A crash scene

Penalties for distracted driving

If convicted in Ontario, the penalty you face depends on the kind of licence you hold and how long you’ve been driving.

If you have an A, B, C, D, E, F, G and/or M licence, you’ll face bigger penalties when convicted:

  • First conviction:
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $1,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • three demerit points
    • 3-day suspension
  • Second conviction
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $2,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 7-day suspension
  • Third and any further conviction(s)
    • a fine of $615, if settled out of court (includes a victim surcharge and the court fee)
    • a fine of up to $3,000 if a summons is received or if you fight the ticket in court and lose
    • six demerit points
    • 30-day suspension

Novice drivers

If you hold a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence in Ontario, and are convicted of distracted driving, you’ll face the same fines as drivers with A to G licences. But you won’t receive any demerit points.

Instead of demerit points you’ll face longer suspensions:

  • a 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
  • a 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
  • cancellation of your licence and removal from the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction
  • In order to get your licence back you would have to redo the GLS program

More drive-thru claims

But there are other things that can district drivers. In Saskatchewan, for example, drive-thru restaurants and banks are also a growing venue for fender-benders.

“This seems to be endless these days,” Jesica Ryzynski, a claims specialist, told Canadian Underwriter. “The person behind our client is either not paying attention or openly admits they were on their phone. And they’re rear-ending clients in the drive thru.”

That makes dash cams a valuable tool in settling claims.

“There are situations…where our client is rear ended, but the person behind them is saying ‘no, no, they backed into me.’ And there’s really no way to completely verify that,” she said. “But with a dash cam, you can.”

Another claim trend Ryzynski is seeing more of is people backing out of driveways and not seeing a neighbour’s vehicle parked on the street.

“[The] neighbour’s vehicle isn’t usually parked there and [the driver] thinks ‘well, they never park it there’ and backs into the neighbour’s vehicle.”

Distracted driving’s a big enough problem in Saskatchewan during the summer that Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) dedicated its July traffic safety spotlight to the issue.

“When you’re driving a 5,000-pound pickup truck – or any other vehicle – it’s important to keep your head up, your phone down and watch for these vulnerable road users,” said SGI president and CEO Penny McCune.

  • With files from Canadian Underwriter

RELATED READING:Understanding demerit points

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