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Ontario approves tougher distracted driving penalties

The long awaited amendment to the Highway Traffic Act — one of several new road safety measures — is to become law this fall, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca told reporters after Bill 31 received unanimous support.

But Del Duca said that before that happens, his ministry will be launching an education campaign to make sure motorists get the message that distracted driving is eclipsing drunk driving for causing fatalities.

“People have to be constantly reminded that it is crucial to keep their eyes on the road,” he said, adding that what is really need is “cultural transformation” that drives homes to motorists that driving requires 100 per cent of their attention.

“We have seen a disturbing trend with these needless deaths on the rise. They are totally preventable. Since distracted driving laws were introduced in 2009, 505 lives have been lost in OPP-investigated collisions in which driver distraction was a causal factor,”

The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act will:

  • Increase fines for distracted driving from the current range of $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000, assign three demerit points upon conviction, and escalate sanctions for novice drivers who are convicted.
  • Apply current alcohol-impaired sanctions to drivers who are drug-impaired.
  • Require drivers to let pedestrians completely cross the road before proceeding at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers.
  • Increase fines and demerit points for drivers who “door” cyclists, and require all drivers to maintain a minimum distance of one metre when passing cyclists where possible, as well as allow cyclists to use the paved shoulders on unrestricted provincial highways.
  • Help municipalities collect unpaid fines by expanding licence plate denial for drivers who do not pay certain Provincial Offences Act fines.
  • Allow more qualified medical professionals to identify and report medically unfit drivers and, clarify the types of medical conditions to be reported.

The new fines and measures will come into force over the coming months, the transportation ministry says.

Brian Patterson, president and CEO at Ontario Safety League, said distracted driving “is not just a bad habit, it’s a deadly habit,”


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