Ontario stiffens penalties for distracted driving, 'move over' laws

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 8/31/2015

The Canadian province of Ontario has enacted stricter penalties for distracted driving and failing to obey “move over” laws. Drivers found guilty of distracted driving by the courts could face fines up to $1,000.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 1, the automatic fines for a driver pleading guilty to a distracted-driving charge will increase to $490, up from $280, and the driver will receive three demerit points against his or her license. Previously, no demerit points were administered.

However, if a driver pleads not guilty and fights a distracted-driving charge in court, and is found guilty by a judge, the judge can impose fines ranging from $300 to $1,000, according to Bob Nichols, media spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, or MTO.

“The fine range relates to the amount that can be imposed by a judge after a conviction,” Nichols told Land Line by email.

“The set fine is the amount a driver would pay for simply pleading guilty to the offence and paying the ticket without going to court,” he added.

It is illegal in Ontario for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email on a hand-held cellphone or other communication or entertainment device. It’s also illegal to view a display screen that is not directly related to driving or navigating. Hands-free operation and the use of a mounted GPS unit is allowed, provided the programming or dialing are not done while driving. A hands-free phone call may be placed using a one-touch system or by voice command.

The province’s move over law, which is designed to give emergency vehicles a safe amount of space on the shoulders of roadways, has been expanded to include tow trucks. Violating Ontario’s move-over law comes with an automatic $490 fine for a guilty plea, and higher for a driver pleading not guilty but found guilty by the courts.

The new fines and penalties are part of Bill 31, the Making Ontario Roads Safer Act, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario earlier this year and signed into law in June.

A driver convicted of careless driving, a different charge than distracted driving, faces $2,000 in fines.

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