Ontario Targets Distracted Driving with Strict New Law
If you plan on doing any driving in Ontario, make sure you’re not using any handheld device at the same time. The province recently introduced a stringent new law to combat distracted driving.
As of Jan. 1, you’re not allowed to use a handheld device to text, make calls, check email, or do pretty much anything else behind the wheel. Also prohibited while you’re driving: using handheld entertainment devices, viewing display screens not related to driving, and programming a GPS device by hand.
Don’t do these things while waiting at a red light, either — if your car is on the road, the law applies even when it’s stopped.
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First-time offenders can be slapped with up to a $1,000 fine and a three-day license suspension. Penalties for a second offense rise to $2,000 and a seven-day suspension. A third offense can cost you up to $3,000 and a 30-day suspension. Beginning drivers face even tougher suspensions — and even license cancellation for multiple offenses.
Ontario’s new law doesn’t prohibit all phone use behind the wheel. You can use voice-activated functions via Bluetooth speaker or headset as long as you don’t touch your phone. You can refer to a GPS system as long as you program it before driving. And, of course, you can view your car’s display screens for safety purposes or to check vehicle operation information. 911 calls behind the wheel are allowed, too, but authorities still recommend pulling over first if possible.
Ontario’s new law (the toughest in Canada) may seem strict, but it’s responding to a very real problem. In 2016, police say, distracted driving was the leading cause of fatal crashes in the province, killing more people than drunk driving, excessive speed, or not wearing a seat belt.
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