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'Just drive': New distracted driving penalties in effect in Ontario

Jan 01, 2019 02:42PM ● By Editor
New, stronger penalties for distracted driving in Ontario came into effect on Jan. 1. Photo: CBC

From CBC News - January 1, 2019

Thunder Bay police have some advice for motorists as they cruise into the New Year: just drive.

New penalties for distracted driving in Ontario went into effect at midnight on Jan. 1, 2019.

Under the new rules, a first-time offence will result in a fine of $615, plus three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension upon conviction, police said.

A second offence will see a fine of up to $2,000, with six demerit points and a seven-day suspension. And a third or subsequent offence will result in a fine of up to $3,000 with six demerit points, and a 30-day suspension.

'Put your phone away'

"With the more substantial penalties, we just want to make sure that the message gets out," said Thunder Bay police Traffic Sgt. Gordon Snyder. "Put your phone away. I don't recommend having it where it's easily accessible while you're driving a vehicle, because the temptation is there."

Prior to the New Year, those convicted of distracted driving received a $400 fine (plus associated costs and surcharges) and three demerit points, Snyder said.

"The big changes that we're seeing is the licence suspension, which significantly increases the penalty," he said.

Under Ontario law, distracted drivingĀ includes things like eating, reading, orĀ entering an address on a GPS device while driving.

Most charges, however, Snyder said, come as a result of people using their mobile phones while driving.

"If you're on a roadway, and in the operation of your vehicle, even if it is stopped at a stop light, you cannot have a cell phone in your hand. And it's not just talking on it," Snyder said. "I mean, if you're just holding it to look at it, that's an offence as well."

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