When driving, even when your vehicle is stopped at a traffic light or at an intersection, it is against the law to:
- Check your phone or any other handheld device. This includes texting or dialing. You can only call 911 during an emergency
- Use a handheld entertainment device like a tablet, iPad or gaming console
- View a display screen that is not related to driving such as a video screen or GPS device. You can only view a GPS screen if it is inbuilt in your car’s dashboard or if it has been securely mounted on the dashboard
Ontario’s distracted driving law does not cover other activities such as eating, reading, drinking or reaching out for objects. However, if an accident occurs due to any of these activities, you may still be charged for reckless or dangerous driving.
Distracted driving statistics
The fatalities that result due to distracted driving have doubled since 2000. According to data provided in 2013:
- Every 30 minutes, a person is injured by a distracted driver in Ontario
- Using a phone behind the wheel is four times more likely to result in an accident on the road
What are the penalties if found guilty?
To avoid the dangers of distracted driving, do not use a hand-held device when behind the wheel. This includes your phone, the DVD player or an e-reader. Even if you are caught holding the devices such as a phone while driving, it is against the law.
To avoid the penalties for distracted driving:
- Use a hands-free device such as Bluetooth to turn on and off
- Mount the device on the dashboard or somewhere to make it secure so you don’t have to move it around while driving
If found guilty of distracted driving, your penalty will be determined by the license you hold and the period of time you have been driving.
Generally, drivers with A, B, C, D, E, E, F, G, and M are more likely to face bigger penalties when found guilty of distracted driving.
- You will pay a fine of $615 which covers the surcharge and court fee, if the case is settled outside court
- You will pay up to $1000 if you take the case to court and lose
- Three demerit points
- Three days suspension
- You will pay a fine of $615 if the matter is settled outside of court. This includes the victim surcharge as well as the court fee
- You will pay up to $2000 if you choose to fight the case in court and lose
- 6 demerit points
- 7-day license suspension
Third and further convictions:
- If it is your third and any further convictions, you risk paying a fine of $615 if the case is settled outside of court or a fine of up to $3000 if the case is fought in court but you lose
- 6 demerit points
- 30-day suspension
If you are a novice driver, which means you hold a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, you will also face similar penalties as drivers with A to G licenses. However, you will not receive any demerit points.
Even though novice drivers do not receive any demerit points, they face longer suspensions. For instance, a novice driver who is convicted for distracted driving for the first time will face a 30-day license suspension whereas for a second conviction, the driver with an A to G license faces a 90-day suspension. If convicted for the third time, any driver with an A to G license faces cancellation of the license and removal from the Graduated Licensing System. The driver will then be required to redo the GLS program.
Tips to avoid distracted driving
- Turn off your phone or turn it to silent mode before you step into the car
- Put the phone in an enclosed area or in the back seat if you have to
- Before leaving the house, tell any person that you were communicating with that you will be driving and you will get back to them once you are off the road
- You can install an app that’s designed to block incoming calls or texts and send automatic emails telling the callers that you’re behind the wheel and you’ll get back to them once off the road
- Ask passengers to take the call/respond to the text on your behalf
- If you have to make a response, pull over to a safe area
- Put silent notifications to avoid checking the phone