It’s a message Ontario teens need to receive loud and clear. According to a recent survey of 108,000 Ontario students by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 36 percent of high school drivers in Grade 11 and lower grades admitted to texting while driving at least once in the past year. 46 percent of Grade 12 students admitted to practicing the risky behavior too, and that means more and more teens in Ontario are ignoring both provincial distracted driving laws and the consequences of texting while driving in favor of tapping out messages on their phones.
Some teens say they are still texting while driving because they don’t understand the clear definition of distracted driving and what they can be ticketed for. A recent article in The Windsor Star quoted teens as saying it was OK to use their phones when they were stopped at red lights, stop signs, or if they were using voice recognition apps and speakerphone to do the texting for them.
But according to distracted driving laws in Ontario, even having your phone in your hand while driving will get you a citation. You also can’t text, make a phone call, send an email, or program your GPS while you’re behind the wheel. Hands free devices or talking via Bluetooth is allowed.
If you or your teen is caught driving with their cell phone, you’ll be hit with a $280 fine. At the discretion of the police you could also be charged with Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act, and that could cost you fines up to $2000 and the possibility of six demerit points on your license. The possibility of new legislation coming in could make the penalty even stiffer by raising the fine for distracted driving to $1000 and giving you three demerit points.
What’s the worst that could happen when it comes to distracted driving? If you take your eyes of the road for even a second, you could cause a crash that takes someone’s life or injures them permanently. This is a lesson teens in Ontario need to learn long before distracted driving causes injury to themselves or others.