As motor vehicle accidents statistics are collected and analyzed, the Ontario government continuously seeks improvements to increase safety on the road. In 2016, Ontarians will face some changes, including new funding, new discounts and a reminder of the new laws. Those developments are outlined here, including the testing of driverless cars in Ontario, funding for Ontario’s Cycling Infrastructure, mandatory insurance discounts for winter tires, higher fees and new driving laws for 2016.
Driverless cars will be tested in Ontario as part of a pilot project starting as early as March 2016. Applications for driverless test car licences with certain restrictions are already being accepted by the Ontario government. The vehicles must include a driver who can override the automated system if needed.
This move tests the vehicles in local conditions and puts Ontario in the limelight with California and Nevada, where Google’s pod-like car and Mercedes’ sleek F015 are attracting much attention. The project will also give Canadian business a boost in the global race for a stake in the emerging industry for new automated vehicle technologies. More than 100 companies and institutions exist in the self-driving car industry, so the pilot project will be an incentive for them to stay in Ontario instead of taking their services to competing jurisdictions.
As testing begins here, it is expected that the new driverless car models will be available for sale in Canada within 10 years, according to the Conference Board of Canada, in its January 2016 report. The vehicles could technically be on the road within five years, but there is a need to plan the impact of them on Canada’s economy and infrastructure and develop new regulations and new insurance products first. Meanwhile, many automakers are adding automated features, including parallel parking assist, to their vehicles. The main benefit of self-driving vehicles is expected to reduce traffic fatalities.
Insurance companies are now required to provide a discount for the installation of winter tires for drivers who are renewing their auto insurance policy or starting a new one in 2016. The amount of the discount was undisclosed when the Minister of Finance announced it at the April 2015 Ontario provincial budget, but the common winter tire discount in the insurance industry prior to it being mandated was 5 percent. Winter tires reduce the incidence of accidents in winter on snowy and icy roads. They provide control, traction and safety in freezing and below-freezing temperatures, using a technology whereby specialized soft rubber remains flexible in harsh winter conditions to grip the road.
As part of #CycleON Action Plan 1.0, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is starting to fund the $10 million Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program as of April 1, 2016, to help municipalities build new and improve existing cycling infrastructure. Under this new program, municipalities can apply for funding for up to 50 percent of the total eligible costs of a cycling infrastructure project to a maximum amount of $325,000, until March 31, 2018.
In 2016, fees have doubled to $40 for unpaid fines under the Provincial Offences Act in order to encourage people to pay on time. The fines collected will be kept by the municipalities.
New pedestrian safety rules are in place at school crossings and crosswalks with pedestrian-operated crossing lights, effective January 1, 2016. Motorists and cyclists are now required to wait until pedestrians have finished crossing the road before proceeding. Under the prior regulations, it was acceptable to move forward if pedestrians had crossed half the roadway. Pedestrians are also facing changes, as they are now required to wait (instead of entering a crosswalk) if an approaching vehicle is too close to the crosswalk to come to a stop. A fine of $150 to $500 and three demerit points will apply to any drivers caught in violation of the new rule. Fines are doubled in Community Safety Zones, which are near schools and in public areas.
In spring 2016, greater sharing of driver information between the provinces is planned. Municipalities will have greater ability to charge out-of-province individuals for violations for failing to stop by red light cameras.
Howard Yegendorf & Associates are car accident lawyers serving Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto. We stay informed about laws respecting Ontario’s roadways that may affect you. We are known as Ottawa brain injury lawyers that help victims with catastrophic injury cases, but we handle all kinds of personal injury car accidents. Contact us for more information at 1-866-303-5118.