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In Ontario, it’s illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using cell phones and other hand-held communication and entertainment devices while operating a motor vehicle.

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 strict fines and penalties for distracted driving convictions:

First conviction:

  • a fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • a fine of up to $1,000 if case taken to court
  • 3 demerit points
  • 3-day licence suspension

Second conviction:

  • a fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • a fine of up to $2,000 if case taken to court
  • 6 demerit points
  • 7-day licence suspension

Third conviction:

  • a fine of $615, if settled out of court
  • a fine of up to $3,000 if case taken to court
  • 6 demerit points
  • 30-day licence suspension
Police office giving a 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 of demerit points novice drivers face longer suspensions:

  • 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 for a third conviction

Careless driving.

Drivers who endanger others because of any kind of distraction, including hand-held 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.

Man on his phone texting while driving

Penalties for drivers convicted of Careless Driving may include:

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

  • A licence suspension of up to two years
A black car hitting the rear bumper of a grey car

In 2018, the provincial government introduced a new charge for careless driving causing bodily harm or death. Drivers convicted of this offence face:

  • Six demerit points
  • Fines up to $50,000

  • Up to 2 years in jail

  • a licence suspension of up to five 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 hand-held wireless communications and electronic entertainment devices. Motorists must only use wireless devices in a hands-free manner.

Truck driver using radio to communicate

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

  • Calling 911 in an emergency

  • 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 cell 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.

This advice is intended to provide general information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice, or to be relied on in any dispute, claim, action, demand or proceeding. CAA South Central Ontario does not accept liability for any damage or injury resulting from reliance on this information.