Up until today, the fine for distracted driving in Ontario has been $280. And, as I’m sure you’ll agree, that hasn’t exactly stopped people from using their smartphone behind the wheel – – a lot of people. Take a drive down Lansdowne or up Chemong on at any given time on any given day…and you’ll likely see someone breaking the law. Likewise, it’s not hard to spot drivers staring at their laps at a red light.
Bill 31, otherwise known as the Making Ontario Roads Safer Act, is in effect as of today for all Ontario drivers. So, will an increased penalty of $490 and demerit points stop the illegal activity?
I doubt it. Despite being told that distracted driver surpasses impaired driving for the number of accidents on roadways, it seems to me that anyone who uses their phone while driving now does it because they know the chances of getting caught aren’t that great.
And that’s not a slam against the police. It’s just that more money and resources need to be assigned to actually enforcing the law – – placing undercover officers on the streets and roads to nab offenders, am I not right?
Back to Bill 31 – – today’s new rules. What exactly do these new changes mean for us on the roads? Here is a breakdown of the five changes that drivers will want to be aware of, starting this week:
The fines for using cell phones while driving have increased. Distracted driving will now cost offending motorists up to $1,000 plus additional demerit points on their licenses. For drivers carrying G1 or G2 licenses, they could even have their permits suspended immediately for offenses like texting while driving.
Alcohol and drug use while driving
Drivers who are caught driving while under the influence of drugs will face stiffer penalties than before. In fact, they will face the same ones as drunk drivers – a three to 90-day suspension of their driving license along with a week-long impound of their vehicle. This is in an effort to curtail crash fatalities involving alcohol and/or drugs.
Prior to the passage of Bill 31, Ontario had no law demanding that drivers provide sufficient space, one meter or more, between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing. Now, failure to observe this safety caution will result in fines and demerits for the driver. These are higher in designated safety zones.
Improper lighting on a bicycle
Cyclists don’t get away with additional regulations. Bike riders without proper lighting will now be fined $110 for a lighting violation, increased from just $20 previous to this legislation.
Drivers are now expected to slow down and move over to accommodate stopped emergency vehicles and wreckers that have their lights engaged. For drivers who disregard these rules, they will face fines of $490 plus three demerit points.