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In December of 2017, Ontario passed Bill 174 regulating the sale of recreational marijuana in the province. Under the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act there are changes to the distracted driving laws that came into effect on January 1st, 2019. This will have an impact on all drivers, not just those driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis.
Under the new amendment law enforcement is cracking down on distracted driving, and the consequences are severe. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation Jeff Yurek, as of the first of this year, Ontario has the strictest penalties for repeated distracted driving convictions. These tough new laws and penalties are meant to increase road safety for everyone on our roadways.
Under the new laws while you are driving, including when stopped in traffic or at a red light it is illegal to:
• Text or dial using a phone or other handheld device – unless during an emergency to call 911
• Use any handheld entertainment device (tablet, portable game, etc.)
• View screens unrelated to driving
• Program a GPS – except by voice commands
• Use hands-free devices with an earpiece, lapel button, or Bluetooth
• View GPS screens that are built in our mounted to the dashboard
• Dial 911
While not specifically included in Ontario’s distracted driving laws, drivers who engage in other actions that take their attention away from the road like eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, reading and/or reaching for objects can also be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
If you are caught driving and talking on your phone or device, texting, calling, or emailing, for your first offence, you will be fined up to $1,000, plus a three-day license suspension, and three demerit points.
More than one conviction sees that fine go up $2,000, a seven-day license suspension, and six demerit points. If you are caught more than twice, that fine goes up to $3,000, and includes a thirty day license suspension.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged or Convicted of Distracted Driving
If you have been criminally charged, the importance of getting advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately cannot be overstressed. The sooner you seek counsel, the better your chances of a favourable outcome.
If convicted, the impact on your life can be severe and lasting including a permanent record, hefty fines, jail time, and/or significantly increased insurance rates. It can impede your ability to travel, eliminate job opportunities, and cause problems in your relationships.
Neuberger Partners LLP are an experienced criminal defence law firm who can go over your options and advise you how to protect yourself if you have been charged, or convicted of a distracted driving offencee. Call our office or complete our contact form today. We have experience successfully defending our clients against a myriad of distracted driving charges and we can help you too!