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New Laws to Make Ontario Roads Safer

A high number of motor vehicle accidents occur in Ontario each year. According to the latest available Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 42,966 personal injury and fatal collisions occurred in 2013. Legislators have responded by raising restrictions and penalties for driving violations. Changes have come about as a result of the passage of Bill 31, Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), which has amended Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Certain amendments came into force September 1, 2015 and more changes will take effect in 2016 and 2017.

Ottawa Accident Lawyers Discuss Distracted Driving

Higher fines and penalties for distracted driving came into effect on September 1, 2015, including the use of a hand-held wireless communication or electronic entertainment device while driving or viewing display screens that are unrelated to driving. Forms of distracted driving that are being targeted include talking, texting, typing, dialing, reading or emailing when the device is hand held. Examples of prohibited hand held devices include: iPods, GPS and MP3 players, cell phones, smart phones, laptops and DVD players. The ban on the use these of hand-held devices while driving has been the law in Ontario since 2009. The fine was much lower, between $60 and $500, with no demerit points, and novice drivers (with G1 or G2 licences) did not have their permits suspended on the spot as they would now.
If convicted for distracted driving, a fully licenced driver (holder of Class A, B, C, D, E, F, G) or a hybrid driver (holder of a full-class licence and a novice licence such as Class G and M1) is subject to:

  • A fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court
  • Fine of up to $1,000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket
  • Three demerit points applied to your driver’s record

If convicted of distracted driving, a novice driver will not be subject to demerit points but will be subject to escalating sanctions of:

  • A 30-day licence suspension for a first occurrence
  • A 90-day licence suspension for a second occurrence
  • Licence cancellation and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third occurrence, requiring the driver to return to the start of the Graduated Licensing Program.

If you endanger others because of any distraction, including both hand-held and hands-free devices, you can also be charged with careless driving. If convicted, you will automatically receive:

  • Six demerit points
  • Fines up to $2,000 and/or
  • A jail term of six months
  • Up to two-year licence suspension

You can even be charged with dangerous driving (a criminal offence), with jail terms of up to five years.

It is important to note that the new laws don’t prohibit the use of portable devices altogether. One exception from the law is using a hand-held device to make a 911 emergency call. Also, a cell phone with an earpiece, headset or Bluetooth device using voice-activated dialing can be used or a GPS if the device is mounted or secured. Actions like dialing or scrolling through contacts while driving is not allowed. For a portable GPS, the required information must be inputed before you start driving. You can use a portable media player that is plugged into the vehicle’s sound system but you must activate the playlist before driving. You can still use display screens that are built into the vehicle, audio devices with screens that display still images and ignition interlock devices.

Protection for Tow Truck Drivers Responding to an Emergency

Since September 1, 2015, the requirement to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles stopped at a roadside to assist in an emergency now also includes tow trucks stopped with amber lights flashing. Failing to follow the law will result in a $400 fine plus a victim surcharge and a court fee, totaling $490 and three demerit points. If caught three times, a driver will have his or her licence suspended.

Protection for Cyclists

New measures came into effect on September 1, 2015 to benefit cyclists. Drivers must give cyclists at least one metre of room where possible when passing, failing which is subject to a $110 fine (including a victim surcharge and court fee) and two demerit points. This fee is higher, at $180, when passing cyclists are in a community safety zone.

Drivers are also required to check for a cyclist or other vehicles before opening the door. Failing to do so will result in a potential fine, between $300 and $1,000, (a minimum $365 including the victim surcharge and court fee) along with three demerit points. In the past, the penalty for “dooring” by failing to check for a bicycle or other vehicle coming before opening a door ranged from $60 to $500 with two demerit points.

Cyclists are also now permitted to use the paved shoulders on unrestricted provincial highways. Further, new lighting requirements will make cyclists more visible. Cyclists must have a white or amber light on the front and a red light or reflector on the rear along with other appropriate reflective materials for use half an hour before sunset to half an hour before sunrise. Failure to comply could result in a $110 fine (including a victim surcharge and court fee), up from a $20 set fine in the past.

Protection for Pedestrians

Effective January 1, 2016, new provisions will come into effect to protect pedestrians at school crossings and crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights. Drivers will have to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road in these areas. Drivers will be fined $150 to $500 and three demerit points for offences at pedestrian crossings, school crossings and at crosswalks where there are traffic signals. Fines are doubled in Community Safety Zones, near schools and public areas.

Fines for Out-of-Province Individuals Caught by Red Light Cameras

In spring 2016, municipalities will have greater ability to charge out-of-province individuals caught by red light cameras.

Fines and Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

In fall 2016, individuals caught driving under the influence of drugs will have penalties that mirror impaired driving by alcohol. Further, those convicted of drug impaired driving under the Highway Traffic Act will also have remedial measures and ignition interlock requirements that apply to convicted alcohol impaired drivers.

Reduced Suspension Measures for Repeat Offenders of Impaired Driving

Plans are in place for spring 2017 for repeat offenders of impaired driving to be extended the Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program.

Licence Plate Denial for Drivers Who Do Not Pay Provincial Offices Act Fines

In spring 2017, there will be an expansion of licence plate denial for drivers with unpaid fines under the Provincial Offences Act. Effected individuals would be those failing to pay offences such as speeding, improper lane changes, illegal turns, driving without insurance and careless driving.

Howard Yegendorf & Associates Ottawa Accident Lawyers

As accident lawyers in Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa, we at Howard Yegendorf & Associates strive to keep you informed of amendments to legislation affecting road users. We represent injured motor vehicle accident victims and their families in personal injury lawsuits. If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident in Ottawa, Kingston or Toronto, contact us for a free consultation at 1-866-303-5118.