Distracted driving can be extremely dangerous and is a widening issue in Canada. This article shows you how the laws and penalties differ from province-to-province. We will also offer some tips on how to avoid distracted driving.
Recall the times you had a snack in a car, checked your cellphone’s notifications, or input information into your GPS? Although all of these actions seem common, they’re considered driving against the law in Canada in most provinces.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), the national association representing Canada’s automotive, home, and business industry, works to augment better public understanding of vehicle insurance. Since 1964, IBC has been collecting data on driving statistics in Canada, and in recent years has been reporting on one of the biggest dangers on the road: distracted driving.
It might not strike you but a couple seconds of your eyes being off the road could land you in a major collision. However, four to six seconds that your eyes are distracted from driving is like racing across the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute postulates that approximately 80% of collisions involved some sort of distracted driving up to three seconds prior to the event. Roughly 3 out of 4 Canadians admit to driving while distracted.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving takes place when a driver’s attention wanders away from the act of driving. Every province has its own list of rules but there are national bans in place for using cellphones or hand-held devices while driving and, if a person is caught breaking this law, it could lead to penalties. According to the National Safety Council, a distracted driver, even if looking away from the road for just a few seconds, could fail to see 50 per cent of their driving environment. Even if drivers are looking while distracted, it’s possible they might not be seeing what’s happening.
There are an increasing number of Canadians who are engaging on social media while driving. This is becoming a serious road safety issue today.
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has conceived the definition of distracted driving as: “The diversion of attention from driving, as a result of the driver focusing on a non-driving object, activity, event, or person.” Distracted driving reduces a driver’s awareness, decision-making, and performance which can lead to driver-error and accidents. As distracted driving becomes more conspicuous, it’s in your best interest to prevent factors causing distraction behind the wheel. You should always be mindful of drivers around you, who may or may not be distracted themselves.
Distracted Driving Laws and Penalties By Province
It’s crucial to understand the laws in your province. Doing so can help you avoid distracted driving penalties in Canada.
1. Distracted Driving in Ontario
Fines for distracted driving in Ontario can be anywhere from $615 to $3,000 with three to five demerit points. In Ontario, deaths from distracted driving have doubled since 2000.
Texting and driving in Ontario is not at all legal. It is illegal to use any hand-held wireless communication device, even if halted at a red light.
Using a cellphone while behind the wheel is illegal in Canada. However, it is legal to use a hands-free wireless device with an earpiece or Bluetooth, and GPS display screens can be used while driving if they’re built into the vehicle’s dashboard.
Other actions like eating, drinking, smoking, reaching for objects and reading do not fall under Ontario’s distracted driving law. However, a driver involved in an accident due to any of these distractions can be charged with careless or dangerous driving.
2. Distracted Driving in British Colombia
Drivers caught while driving distracted face a first offence fine of $543, a second offence fine of $888 and four demerit points.
Legislation in British Columbia consider distracted driving to be one of the riskiest moves.
Any activity that prevents a driver’s ability to stay glued on the road – distractions from both inside and outside of the vehicle – can affect a driver’s full observation of the road.
Approximately one-quarter of vehicle collisions in British Columbia are due to distracted driving. Research shows that telephone conversations are much more distracting than in-vehicle conversations.
3. Distracted Driving in Alberta
Alberta’s Distracted Driving Law prohibits drivers from using hand-held devices. They also prohibit using camera and portable audio players, and entering information on GPS units.
Even if a person’s driving is perfect, if caught breaking the Distracted Driving Law, they could be penalized and charged with a $287 fine and three demerit points.
Activities that are not restricted under the law include using a cellphone in a hands-free mode, using one earphone, drinking beverages, eating, smoking, talking with passengers, calling an emergency service, and using hand-held radios in commercial vehicles.
4. Distracted Driving in Saskatchewan
Distracted driving in Saskatchewan is one of the top three factors involved with fatal vehicle collisions. Driving while drowsy is also considered a form of distracted driving. In this state, your attentiveness to react to potential dangers on the road is reduced.
The Traffic Safety Act and Driving Without Due Care are the two distracted driving laws in Saskatchewan. Driving Without Due Care includes eating, using a GPS system, reading maps and personal grooming.
These activities aren’t considered illegal. However, these could land you a driving without due care ticket if a collision occurs.
Under Saskatchewan’s Traffic Safety Act, it is illegal to use and hold a cellphone while driving. If caught, drivers will face a $280 fine and four demerit points. Experienced drivers can use hands-free devices but only if they can be activated with voice command or one-touch.
5. Distracted Driving in Manitoba
Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act and the Drivers and Vehicles Act states that drivers caught using a cellphone or another hand-operated electronic device while on the road are subject to a three-day license suspension and a seven-day suspension for a subsequent occurrence within 10 years.
This also results in a $672 fine and five demerit points. In Manitoba, distracted driving was the major cause of collisions in 2017. This continues to pose a risk for driving as it can increase the risk of collision by nearly four times.
6. Distracted Driving in Quebec
Laws in Quebec prohibit any driver to use a cellphone or any other portable device behind the wheel. If caught driving distracted, drivers can face a $300 to $600 fine and five demerit points.
However, drivers are allowed to use an earphone in one ear while using hands-free devices. Although this option is accommodated, it is not recommended.
7. Distracted Driving in New Brunswick
It is illegal to make and take telephone calls behind the wheel of a vehicle in New Brunswick unless the telephone is hands-free or single-touch, or if it is an emergency.
The law heralds that it is also illegal to text and program a GPS system while driving. If a display screen in your vehicle is built into the dashboard, like an MP3 or GPS, is it legal to use. However, the use of all electronic devices, unless it’s a two-way radio for operating a commercial vehicle, are illegal and could lead to a $172.50 fine and three demerit points.
8. Distracted Driving in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia has rolled out fines for drivers who text and use hand-held devices behind the wheel. In 2015, the province increased the fines for distracted driving to $233.95 for first offence and $578.95 for a third offence. Also, four demerit points will be added on conviction.
9. Distracted Driving in Prince Edward Island
In Prince Edward Island, it is illegal to text, dial, email or search using a hand-held communication device while behind the wheel.
Drivers can use hands-free technology activated by a single touch or pull over in a safe area off the road to talk or text. However, cellphones, GPS systems, and laptops are illegal to use and if caught will result in a fine from $572 to $1275 and four demerit points.
10. Distracted Driving in Newfoundland and Labrador
In June 2018, Newfoundland and Labrador implemented a new offence under the province’s Highway Traffic Act for driving without due care.
Drivers caught driving while distracted, shooting up the risk of an accident or bodily harm to others on the road, will be fined $100 to $400 and four demerit points.
11. Distracted Driving in the Territories
The Northwest Territories have put a moratorium using hand-held electronic devices since 2012. Any device used to transmit and receive messages, play audio or video record are restricted behind the wheel. Drivers who don’t adhere to this law and are caught could face charges ranging from $322 to $644 and three demerit points.
Avoid Distracted Driving Penalties in 3 Easy Ways
Neglecting a notification while you’re behind the wheel might not cost you your life. However, it only takes a couple seconds for something to go seriously wrong. Here are a few tips that could help you prevent distracted driving penalties and mitigate your risk of collisions and bodily harm.
1. Turn Your Phone to Silent Mode
Turning off your phone’s notifications appears as an obvious, no-brainer suggestion, but does anyone? Our brains respond with a surge of dopamine when we receive a notification sound from our electronic devices. Usually, without even thinking, we check our technology to see who is trying to reach us and why. This often occurs while on the road. It’s always best to turn your phone off or put it in silent mode when you get in the car. This will prevent you from being tempted to engage with your electronic device while driving. Doing so could save a life.
2. Use Apps for Call Blocking
It is recommended to set up an automated response is if you’re often on the road for extended time periods. There are a ton of applications available that block calls and messages. These apps can also send out automated messages to incoming calls. It will let them know that you’re currently driving and unavailable to talk. Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature lets your phone detect when you might be driving and automatically blocks notifications. If you own an Apple smartphone, ensure this feature is turned on to maintain full focus while driving.
3. Pull Over
Cellphones and electronics are two of the many forms of distracted driving. Distractions inside of the vehicle like talking with other passengers, dealing with children and animals, programming a GPS system, eating and reaching for a fallen object are just a couple examples of driver distractions. Just pull into a safe area to deal with these distractir, should it arise. You’ll not only be doing yourself and your passengers a favour, but you’ll be minimizing the risk of an accident for others on the road.
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