New Ontario traffic laws take aim at distracted drivers

New traffic laws are on the books in Ontario, targeting distracted and other dangerous drivers.

Beginning September 1 of this year, drivers in Ontario began facing much higher fines and demerit points if caught using a handheld device while behind the wheel of their car. With distracted driving now the leading cause of fatal car accidents in Ontario, according to CBC News, it should come as no surprise that the province has imposed the higher penalties in order to crack down on distracted drivers. In addition to distracted driving, the new traffic laws also target drivers who endanger cyclists and tow truck drivers.

Distracted driving

The minimum fine for distracted driving is now set at $490 along with three demerit points and can go up to $1,000. For drivers on a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence, however, a first distracted driving conviction will lead to a 30-day licence suspension. A second conviction, meanwhile, will lead to a 60-day suspension, and a third conviction will result in their licence being cancelled.

As the National Post points out, however, some drivers still have misconceptions about what counts as distracted driving. Toronto Police, for example, are trying to remind motorists that distracted driving is not limited to actually texting or talking on a cellphone while driving. Rather, holding a cellphone, even if it has no sim card inside, can still result in a distracted driving ticket. Furthermore, holding a phone at a stop light is also considered a form of distracted driving. The only time drivers are allowed to use their cellphones while driving is to call 911. Otherwise they must be off the road and parked before picking up their phones.

Bicycle and tow truck safety

The new traffic laws also include good news for cyclists. A driver who opens his or her car door into a cyclist's path, thus causing a crash, now faces minimum fines of $365 and three demerit points. Drivers are also now required to leave at least one metre of space when passing cyclists unless it is impossible to do so. The fine for passing too closely is now $110 and two demerit points or $180 if the offence occurs in a community safety zone.

Finally, tow truck drivers who are pulled over to the side of the highway and have their emergency signals on are now covered by the province's "move over" law. When safe to do so, motorists are required to slow down and move over to the lane furthest from the tow truck or else face a $490 fine. The "move over" law already applies to emergency vehicles.

Involved in a car accident?

The few seconds it takes for a car accident to happen can change a person's life forever. Anybody who has been injured in a crash should contact a personal injury lawyer right away. Especially in cases where the accident may have been caused by negligence, such as by a driver who may have been distracted at the time of the crash, it is important to discuss whatever legal options are available with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible.