The Province of Ontario passed unanimous legislation to update its Highway Traffic Act, and with the passing comes increased penalties for distracted driving and drugged or impaired driving, plus new changes in how drivers are to deal with pedestrians and cyclists.
First among the updates are changes to distracted driving law. Although using a cell phone in a moving vehicle has been illegal since 2009, fines were so low it seems most people didn’t take the ban seriously. Take teenagers for example—the Center for Addiction and Mental Health did a survey in 2014 and found 1/3 of Ontario students with driver’s licenses have sent texts at least once while driving. They might stop texting now that distracted driving fines have increased from $60 to $500 to a minimum of $300 to $1,000. In addition to the fine, you get three demerit points on your driver’s license, and that adds up to a dent in your pocket book.
While distracted driving is a big issue in Ontario, drinking and driving still remains the main reason why people die on the roadways. Because theirs hasn’t been a breathalyzer to test for drugs and police have to rely on field sobriety tests, the penalties for drugged driving were slightly less severe than they were for impaired driving. But that’s all about to change too—drivers who are impaired by drugs will now face the same penalties as those who are impaired by alcohol, and that includes roadside suspensions for 3 to 90 days, vehicle impounding for 7 days, and offenders may be required to install an ignition interlock device so they can’t continue to drive impaired.
Rounding up the changes to the Highway Traffic Act, drivers are now required to keep a one-meter distance between vehicles and bicycles, and the fine for opening a door into the path of a cyclist will increase to the same amount you’d pay if you were distracted driving. As for cyclists, they’re now required to use a light and reflectors or they’ll pay up to $500.
All of the changes to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act are designed to ensure everyone, from motorists to cyclists and pedestrians, are safe when out on Ontario’s roads.