Harsher Fines for Distracted Driving in Ontario Coming in New Year

New year, new distracted driving penalties.

Leave the phone alone. That’s the message behind the new penalties for distracted driving in Ontario that come into effect January 1, 2019. Higher fines, demerit points and even a driver’s licence suspension are what’s now at risk when convicted of distracted driving in the province. And that’s not including the auto insurance implications of having a distracted driving ticket on your record. This ticket will affect your Ontario auto insurance premiums for no less than three years, which begs the question: how much is that call, text or email worth to you?

A triple threat: higher fines, demerit points and a licence suspension

Beginning January 1, 2019 drivers who drive distracted will face a maximum fine of $1,000, three demerit points and a three-day driver's licence suspension upon conviction. But only if it’s your first. The penalties for repeat offenders are even greater.

If within five years you're convicted of distracted driving again, the fine increases to a maximum of $2,000, six demerit points and the suspension, this time, will last seven days. A third conviction is even costlier: you’ll be facing a $3,000 fine, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension.

A one-two punch for novice drivers

For new drivers who do not yet hold a full G licence and have a G2 licence or G1, the monetary penalties are the same, but in lieu of demerit points, the licence suspensions are significantly longer. A first-time conviction for distracted driving comes with a 30-day licence suspension, 90-day suspension for a second, and an outright driver’s licence cancellation for a third.

Suspending your driving privileges

Ontario isn’t the first province to introduce the threat of licence suspensions as a deterrent to distracted driving.

In November 2018, Manitoba’s distracted driving laws were beefed up to include a three-day roadside licence suspension for a first offence and a seven-day suspension for each time thereafter. In Quebec, repeat offenders face an immediate suspension of three, seven or 30 days depending on whether or not it’s their second, third or fourth offence within two years.

Ontario’s licence suspension is not roadside. Instead, it comes into effect upon conviction.

Sentence your devices to silence

While safety is the paramount incentive to not drive distracted, there are fines, demerit points, licence suspensions and auto insurance implications to consider as well. Play it safe and put the devices away and out of reach when behind the wheel. And if the familiar ping of received texts, calls or emails is too much to resist, activate the setting on your phone that limits the notifications you receive while driving.