New driving legislation in Ontario means tougher penalties for distracted and careless driving.
New Ontario bylaws will mean automatic driver’s licence suspension for convicted distracted drivers in Ontario are soon to take effect after receiving Royal Assent.
Distracted driving has a broad definition and can mean anything from text messaging or making that phone call while you drive, to doing so while stopped at a stoplight.
In Ontario, it’s against the law to:
operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you’re driving
view display screens unrelated to your driving
Examples of hand-held devices include:
iPods and MP3 players
The fines for distracted driving would increase from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on a second conviction and up to $3,000 for third or subsequent incidents, as well as six demerit points for multiple offences.
Those convicted would also see their licence suspended for three days on a first offence, seven days after two convictions, and 30 days for third and further convictions.
Police officers are limited in their authority, and while they can issue tickets, they won’t be able to seize a driver’s licence at roadside.
A judge would have to order it suspended only after the driver is found guilty. The accused would be allowed due process and would have an opportunity to defend the allegations they are facing in court.
Careless Driving, originally section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act defined the penalties for a conviction of Careless Driving as follows: “is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years.”
New penalties for carless driving include: “is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than five years.”
Careless drivers in Ontario causing death could soon be fined up to $50,000 as the government plans to introduce tougher penalties that will also crack down on distracted driving.
Ontario’s driving legislation previously had no offence for careless driving causing death, with careless driving carrying maximum penalties of six months of jail time, $2,000 in fines, plus demerit points and a licence suspension.
The new legislation creates a new offence for careless driving causing death or bodily harm. The penalty upon conviction is a licence suspension of up to five years, fines of between $2,000 and $50,000, up to two years of jail time and six demerit points.
One of the other important changes to this section of law is the definition of Careless Driving: ”a person is deemed to drive without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway if he or she drives in a manner that may limit his or her ability to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway.”
This new legislation will make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to have a licence suspension for those convicted of distracted driving and give us the toughest penalties for repeated distracted driving convictions in the country.
While the goal is to give law enforcement an opportunity to pursue careless driving charges when appropriate some fear that the penalties are too severe and that the definition of careless and/or distracted too broad.
If you have been charged with distracted or careless driving or any other criminal offence contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for your free consolation.