The #1 cause of Ontario driving fatalities probably is not what you think it is. If you haven’t seen the statistic report yet, the Ontario Provincial Police say that 78 people died in distracted driving-related collisions in 2013, compared to 57 impaired driving deaths and 44 speed-related deaths. In total, the OPP also laid nearly 19,000 distracted driving charges in 2013, compared to 16,000 in 2012. Since 2010, there have been 325 people killed in Ontario because of distracted driving. According to the OPP, distracted driving is the most dangerous driving behaviour and it appears to only be getting worse.
In response to this, the chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice has been busy implementing a hike to the distracted driving fine. The current fine for distracted driving is $155 but beginning on March 18th, the penalty will increase by over one hundred dollars. If you are caught driving while distracted from that date onward you will be expected to pay a $225 fine, $50 victim surcharge, and $5 court fee. That total ticket will end up costing you $280.00, making it one of the highest fines for distracted driving in Canada.
Police are not required to prove that a cell phone or any device with a display screen that is unrelated to driving is/was in direct use while driving. All that has to be determined by an officer is that it was in your hand and/or your eyes were on the device or screen rather than the road. It’s not just cellphones that police are blaming for an increase in distracted driving. Some drivers have been stopped for holding and using their MP3 players and even watching a television show/movie on their laptops or tablets.
To break it down, unless legally parked, drivers can be fined for:
• Holding a cell phone, regardless of intent to use it
• Using a cellphone to talk or text message (unless calling emergency services)
• Manually programming a GPS (voice command is allowed)
• Viewing the screen of any tablet, computer screen, etc.
Of course, like any law, there are those drivers who are somewhat exempt and it is useful to understand what they are:
• Law enforcement officers as well as firefighters and paramedics are allowed to use handheld devices and their display screens while on duty
• Taxi drivers and couriers are still allowed to use their two-way radios while working
• Public service workers such as transit and highway maintenance workers
• If you are using a Bluetooth device and voice activation to make a call
• All drivers are still allowed to have a GPS in use and view the screen provided they are not programming it while driving and the screen is not impeding their view.
Remember – the cost of a distracted driving ticket is going up on March 18th and while we would never recommend that you drive while distracted, if you have been ticketed for this offence make sure to contact X-Copper to see how we can help.
This is an evolving story. As Apple is getting set to release CarPlay into select Volvo cars with plans to also release it with Ferrari and Mercedes Benz, new issues about what constitutes distractions while driving are bound to emerge and complicate things even more. One thing to consider is whether it is actually going to make using the apple interface less distracting or is it just a new and larger interference? Will CarPlay be a solution or just more of the same?