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Drivers Continue to Be Distracted Despite Being Aware of the Dangers

From the penalties to the possible consequences, here’s what you need to know about an offence road safety experts say is all too common

A close up view of a person with one hand on a steering wheel, and in their other hand they are holding a cellphone.

Ontario has some of North America’s strictest distracted driving laws.

Despite that, one person is injured in a distracted driving-related collision every hour, according to the provincial government.

That is a troubling number, say road safety experts. With the clocks about to turn back an hour as daylight saving time ends and the days growing shorter, many safety advocates are urging drivers to keep their attention fixed on the road.

“Driving already carries with it risks and it requires our full concentration,” says Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice president of government and community relations with CAA South Central Ontario. “We’re asking people to be very diligent.”

With that in mind, here are four things you should know about distracted driving.

Distracted driving includes a range of offences

Most people know you’re not allowed to text or make a hand-held call while driving. But it’s even illegal to simply hold a phone while behind the wheel. Other prohibited activities when behind the wheel include programming a GPS device—except via voice commands—and viewing a screen unrelated to driving, like a tablet. That all holds true even if you’re stopped at a light. You can also be charged with other offences, like careless driving, for eating, drinking, smoking or grooming yourself on the road.

Becoming a common occurrence

In a CAA survey from March, 40 percent of drivers said they often see other motorists holding cell phones. What’s more, 39 percent of motorists considered themselves distracted drivers.

Drivers under the age of 34 are less likely to be concerned about distracted driving, according to the same CAA survey. Young male drivers under the age of 34 are three times more likely than the average driver to have been charged with distracted driving.

Fatal consequences

More than 15 percent of Ontario’s road deaths in 2017 involved an “inattentive” driver, according to provincial statistics.

While many drivers think they can safely glance at their phone, Di Felice says that even a moment of inattention can lead to disaster.

“Taking your hands and your mind off the task of driving could lead to fatal consequences,” she says. “In a few seconds, catastrophes do happen.”

Severe penalties

If you’re convicted of distracted driving, you’ll get a $615 fine, three demerit points and a three-day licence suspension. Second and third convictions would see the demerit points and licence suspensions rise.

If you endanger, injure or cause fatal harm to someone, you could face additional charges of careless or dangerous driving. The latter carries a maximum sentence of 14 years behind bars.

If you’re driving, put your phone away as well as anything else that may be a distraction. It’s not worth the risk to your own life or that of others.

Keep reading

Visit CAA to learn more about distracted driving, including federal and provincial legislation, as well as to download a brochure.

Image credit: lovro77/iStock

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