Distracted Driving Legislation.

In Ontario, it’s illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using cell phones and other handheld communication and entertainment devices.

Recognizing that distracted driving is a significant and growing issue on our roads, several changes have been made to the Highway Traffic Act in an effort to make roads safer for everyone.

Penalties for Distracted Driving.

Drivers who are caught breaking the law face a minimum fine of $490 plus three demerit points upon conviction. If the case is brought to court, a judge could increase the fine to as much as $1,000.

Police officer at drivers side window writing ticket

Novice drivers (those with G1, G2, M1 or M2 licences) convicted of distracted driving face the same fines as fully licenced drivers, but won’t receive any demerit points.

Instead, they will be subject to escalating sanctions including:

  • A 30-day licence suspension for a first conviction
  • A 90-day licence suspension for a second conviction
  • Cancellation of licence and removal from the Graduated
    Licensing System (GLS) for a third conviction

Careless Driving.

Drivers who endanger others because of any kind of distraction, including handheld devices, like a phone, or hands-free devices, like a Bluetooth, may still be charged with Careless Driving under the Highway Traffic Act or even Dangerous Driving under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Male driver at the wheel of a car reading text messages

Penalties for drivers convicted of Careless Driving may include:

  • Six demerit points
  • Fines up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of six months
  • A licence suspension of up to two years

Dangerous driving is a criminal offence that carries heavier penalties, including jail terms of up to 10 years for causing bodily harm or up to 14 years for causing death.

Distracted Driving Exemptions.

Ontario’s distracted driving legislation applies to handheld wireless communications and electronic entertainment devices. Motorists must only use wireless devices in a hands-free manner.

Truck driver holding a CB radio

Motorists are not permitted to use handheld communication and electronic entertainment devices when driving with the following exceptions:

  • Calling 911 in an emergency situation
  • When the driver has safely pulled off the roadway and is stationary or is lawfully parked
  • Transmitting or receiving voice communication on a 2-way radio, CB or mobile radio (hand-mikes and portable radios like walkie-talkies require a lapel button or other hands-free accessory)

Device Use While Driving.

You cannot use any device that requires you to scroll, type or otherwise use your hands to activate or operate it.

You CAN use the following:

  • Any mobile phone or personal audio device that is pre-programmed and plugged into your car’s sound system – you may also activate these devices to hands-free mode while driving (if applicable)
  • A GPS that has been pre-programmed and secured to your car’s dashboard or windshield
  • Bluetooth or hands-free devices and headsets
  • 2-way, CB or mobile radios (hand-mikes and portable radios like walkie-talkies must have a lapel button or other hands-free accessory)

You CANNOT use the following:

  • Cell phones
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • iPods and MP3 players
  • Laptops
  • DVD players

It is illegal to view any display screens that are unrelated to your driving. If you are using your phone or personal audio player while it is plugged into your sound system, ensure that it is in a place where the screen will not be a distraction.

For more information on distracted driving, visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation distracted driving website.