Distracted Driving in Ontario

In less than two decades, the number of deaths caused by distracted driving collisions in Ontario has doubled. With increasingly strict penalties and a no-tolerance approach, the province is making a concentrated effort to crack down on dangers caused by distracted driving.

Driving while distracted has the potential to endanger others and can result in devastating consequences. In Ontario, a no-tolerance approach and strict fines and penalties mean that it is up to drivers to understand the law. Distracted driving accidents are avoidable, find out how to protect yourself and others.

What You Need to Know About Distracted Driving

In Ontario, it is against the law to operate hand-held communication or entertainment devices while driving. It is also illegal to view display screens that are unrelated to driving. Ontario collision data indicates that one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every 30 minutes and that the chance of a crash is four times more likely if a driver is using a phone.

What Is Distracted Driving?

When operating a motor vehicle, a driver's sole focus should be directed at the road. Given the tremendous weight and power of even a compact car, ensuring the safety of passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers is critical.

Anything that takes a driver's attention away from driving is considered a distraction. Some of the most frequent causes of distraction behind the wheel include:

- Using a phone to talk, send a text message, check email, or navigate

- Inputting information into a GPS

- Using a portable music device or an onboard entertainment system

- Personal grooming such as applying makeup, hair styling, and shaving

- Eating and drinking

While hands-free devices are an option, it is important to note that any information must be programmed before driving. In other words, a person can input a destination into their satellite navigation or set up a playlist before they begin to drive but once they're on the road, they cannot dial, scroll, other otherwise use the device.

Another key point to remember about distracted driving is that the law applies even when stopped. Unless a driver has pulled off a roadway and parked their vehicle in a way that does not impede traffic or pose a risk to others, they cannot use a hand-held device. Drivers cannot quickly send a text message or check their email at a red light, stop sign, or during a traffic jam. The only situation during which the use of a hand-held device is acceptable while driving is if there is an emergency situation and the driver is dialing 9-1-1.

The Implications of Distracted Driving

The consequences of driving while distracted can be devastatingly life-changing. In the brief moment it takes to answer a phone call or check directions, there exists the potential to catastrophically injure or kill oneself or others. In Ontario, distracted driving laws have becoming increasingly strict, in part as a response to the uptick of distracted driving deaths and lack of public awareness about its dangers.

If a person is caught driving while distracted and subsequently convicted, they face fines and demerit points. If the distracted driving endangered others, additional charges related to careless driving may be added. With a careless driving conviction comes the potential for significant fines, license suspension, and jail time.

If a distracted driver causes injury or death, they may be charged with dangerous driving and face penalties including extensive jail time.

Protection Against Distracted Driving

As a driver, the simplest way to avoid distracted driving is to focus on the road. Keep hand-held devices out of reach so that it is easier to resist temptation. Plan routes ahead of time, create playlists that will last the duration of a trip, and eat or drink before leaving.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers need to be vigilant in order to protect themselves. Before crossing a street, merging into traffic, or making a turn, it is important to ensure that eye contact is made with approaching cars. Notice if another vehicle appears to be moving erratically or if a driver's attention is diverted.

An accident caused by a distracted driver has the potential to change the lives of the victim and everyone around them. For individuals who have been injured by a distracted driving accident, navigating a new normal can be overwhelming. From handling insurance matters to working towards recovering benefits and compensation, having the support of an experienced personal injury lawyer is critical.