Stiffer Penalties for Distracted Driving



The province of Ontario is looking to beef up their policies, and the penalties to match surrounding distracted driving and driving while under the influence. These tougher rules and penalties are to protect the most vulnerable population using the roadways: cyclists and pedestrians.  The province is looking to put these new rules and regulations into effect later this fall.


The province is concentrating on penalties surrounding:

  • Distracted driving, such as cellphone use
  • Careless driving that creates bodily harm (including while under the influence of drugs and alcohol)
  • Failing to yield for pedestrians
  • Illegally passing a school bus while red lights flashing

Ontario’s roads have been ranked amongst the safest in North America, and they are looking to keep it that way.

Fines for distracted driving are looking to be raised from $300-$1000 to $500-$3000 depending on seriousness of offence and past driving transgressions. Demerit penalties will also change under this new legislation from a maximum of 3 to a maximum of 6.  Distracted driving could also cause you to get your license suspended.

What qualifies as distracted driving?Distracted Driving

Using any type of hand held electronic device, or display screen, not related to driving can land you in hot water.


  • Smartphones/Cellphones
  • GPS
  • Laptops
  • DVD players
  • iPod/MP3 players

It’s important to know that using these devices while stopped at a red light still qualifies as distracted driving and can earn you a ticket. Stopping on any of the 400 series highways to use a hand-held device is also strictly prohibited. Instead, drivers are encouraged to leave the freeway at an interchange or pull off to a service station to use a device.

So, what about hands free devices?

Hands free devices are allowed, provided they meet certain criteria.

  • Cellphones or smartphones that have Bluetooth capabilities and voice activated dialing are allowed
  • GPS screens that are mounted, provided address were imputed prior to driving
  • Portable media player plugged into dashboard, provided playlist was selected prior to leaving
  • Display screens built into the dashboard
  • Ignition interlock devices

Other exemptions to the hands free include dialing 9-1-1, or using devices when pulled over safely on a non-400 series highway.

Commercial Use

Until January 2018 the following exemption for commercial drivers exists:

“Commercial and public transit drivers, as well as public service workers who are engaged in the performance of their duties, will be able to view the display screens of mobile data terminals and logistical tracking and dispatching devices. Specified commercial, public transit, and public function drivers, as well as licenced amateur radio operators, are permitted hand-held use of their two-way (“CB”) radios.”

Ontario Ministry of Transportation

Electronic display screens for mobile data terminals for commercial vehicles are also allowed (so don’t worry, your handy ELD device from PSTC and Keep Truckin will still be compliant!).

Did you know?

  • 2014 pedestrians and cyclists made up 25% of road fatalities in Ontario
  • Drunk drivers are among the top 5 reasons for road accidents

Tips for Sharing the Road with Pedestrians and Cyclists:

  • Look for pedestrians at crosswalks, especially when turning
  • Drive slowly through playground and school zones
  • Watch for Community Safety Zones– these signs indicate that close   attention should be paid to pedestrians and children
  • Stop in either direction when a school bus has its red lights flashing
  • Look for cyclists on your right
  • Signal well in advance so cyclists can stay back
  • Only pass a cyclist when safe to do so
  • Keep 1-1.5 m away from a cyclist when passing
  • If behind a cyclist at traffic stop, do not pass them, this puts them in your blind spot

If we all take a few extra minutes to drive with extra caution, everyone can get home safe and sound.



Resources and further information:

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