New Distracted Driving Legislation in Ontario Part 1

City Hall of Toronto at Nathan Phillips square, Ontario, Canada

New Driving Laws in Ontario

Driving laws are changing in Ontario! X-Copper will be covering the topic of recent changes to Ontario Driving Legislation over a four-part blog series. We will take a look at what rules are changing, what fines are increasing, and why these changes are being implemented. We will also provide some useful tips for being safer on the road so you can work on avoiding these fines to begin with.

Over the coming months, Ontario is implementing changes to legislation as part of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, passed on June 2, 2015. The aim is to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities on Ontario’s roads. Some notable changes to keep in mind include higher penalties for distracted and drug-impaired driving, for not waiting until pedestrians have completely crossed the road before proceeding, and for driving too close to cyclists while passing. A broader range of medical professionals will be able to identify and report medically unfit drivers, and drivers who have not paid their traffic fines can be denied license plate renewal. These offences include speeding, improper lane changing, illegal turns, and driving with no insurance.

We will especially focus on problems related to distracted driving, as it is one of the most prominent and recent issues on today’s roads. Distracted driving is the practice of driving a vehicle while being engaged in another activity, but this typically means being distracted by technology. The use of cellphones (for texting and calling) and scrolling through iPods and audio devices are the most common culprits. In this post, we will address the following questions:

Are there any exemptions to the Distracted Driving Law? What devices can I use safely and legally?

• You can use hand-held devices for calling, texting, and scrolling if you are pulled off the roadway or parked.
• If you have an earpiece, headset, or Bluetooth device (using voice-activated dialling), you can use it only to activate or deactivate it. You CANNOT use it EVER even if it is for setting up a Bluetooth or hands free device. You are only allowed to press one button to ACTIVATE the Bluetooth device and definitely not the phone. You are only aloud to press the button on the Bluetooth device to engage or end a call. You cannot dial a number or scroll through contacts while driving.
• You can use a GPS, as long as you have input the navigation information before you start driving and not during the drive. The GPS cannot obscure the driver’s view of the road once it’s set up in the vehicle.
• You can use portable media players like iPods and MP3s, but again only if the music has be pre-programmed and there is no need for scrolling.
• You are allowed to have display screens built into the vehicle for safety reasons, such as for collision avoidance or weather information, and audio devices with screens that display still images such as an MP3 player showing the name of the artist and song playing.

What if there is an emergency while I’m driving and I need to call 911?

• You are allowed to use a hand-held phone to call an emergency number while driving, but there are some ways to lower the risk. If a situation like this occurs, pull over if at all possible. If pulling over is not a possibility, let the person on the other end know that you are driving and be as brief as possible.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll cover in detail the substantial changes in distracted driving penalties.

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