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Ontario Distracted Driving Penalties & How It Affects Your Car Insurance

April 9, 2021

Mobile phones have generally made our lives much more convenient, efficient, and connected, however there is an increasing awareness to some of the negative effects of mobile phones. The “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO, is a phenomenon that occurs when you feel like you are missing out on something.

When you receive that “ding” notification, can you wait until it is safe to view it or must you check right away?

The Insurance Bureau of Canada makes the case that distracted driving in Ontario is potentially as dangerous as impaired driving. A number of recent studies indicate that distracted driving can increase your likelihood of being involved in a collision by a significant amount.

We hope you can fight the urge because there are many reasons to avoid mobile phone usage while driving.

What counts as distracted driving in Ontario?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, distracted driving is any use of a “hand-held communication and electronic entertainment device” while driving. Even viewing a display screen can be considered distracted driving.

If you are caught “talking, texting, checking maps, or choosing a playlist”, you would likely be charged with a distracted driving offence.

It is considered distracted driving in Ontario and illegal to:

  • use a phone or other hand-help wireless communication device to text or dial
  • use a hand-held electronic entertainment devices, such as a tablet or portable gaming console
  • view display screens unrelated to driving, such as watching a video
  • program a GPS device, except by voice commands.

Is the use of hands-free considered distracted driving in Ontario?

In Ontario, the use of hands-free devices is permitted. However, some studies have shown that hands-free devices are not safer and it's always better to safely pull to the side of the road to make any phone calls.

When you are driving, it's important to stay focused on the environment surrounding you. Even hands-free devices takes away your attention to the subject of the phone call.

What are the penalties for distracted driving in Ontario?

Drivers with a full licence, including A-G and M licences, will be charged a total of $615. However, if you unsuccessfully decide to fight the ticket it court, you can be fined $1,000 for your first offence, $2,000 for your second, and $3,000 for your third and any further convictions.

Fines are not the only penalty you will receive if convicted of distracted driving. Demerit points and license suspensions will also be included, even for first-time offenders.

Drivers with graduated licenses (ie. G1, G2, M1, M2) will face the fines listed above, but in lieu of demerit points will receive longer suspensions: 30 days for the first, 60 days for the second, and complete cancellation for the third.

Distracted driving can lead to further convictions

If you are so distracted while driving that you endanger other people, you may also be convicted of careless driving.

A conviction of careless driving may result in a penalty of an additional fine of $2,000, six demerit points and/or a jail term of six months and a license suspension of up to two years.

Distracted driving and your Ontario car insurance

A distracted driving conviction in Ontario will be reflected on your driving record, therefore will be considered by insurance companies when calculating your risk. Insurance companies have determined that drivers with distracted driving convictions have a higher degree of risk and their prices will increase.

There are many factors considered when determining your car insurance premiums and the number of minor, major, and criminal offences have varying impacts.

Prior to January 1, 2019, distracted driving in Ontario was considered a minor offence (ie. driving without a seatbelt, speeding, stop sign infraction, etc). However, insurance companies now consider a distracted driving conviction to be a major offence, which has a much larger impact on their risk calculation.

A major offence can have a drastic impact on your rates.

One real example is that of a 35-year old male driver who commutes to work 10 km one-way in a 2014 Subaru Impreza with full coverage. Prior to his distracted driving conviction, he was paying approximately $1,200 per year. Now, with the only difference being one distracted driving conviction, he would be paying an annual rate of over $2,250, an increase of over $1,000!

We have even seen insurance companies decline coverage to drivers on new applications because of distracted driving convictions.

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4 Reasons Why Distracted Driving May Be The New DUI

Driving while distracted (DWD) is potentially as dangerous as driving drunk and is much more common. If you drive while distracted, you should know these facts:

  1. You're 23x more likely to be involved in a collision if you text and drive. You're 4x more likely while talking on a cell phone.
  2. You're breaking the law. Ontario bans the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving with a find between $490 and $1,000 as well as 3 demerit points as of June, 2018.
  3. You may look but you don't see. Distracted drivers fail to see up to 50% of the driving environment.
  4. 80% of collisions involved driver inattention up to 3 seconds prior and 65% of near collisions.

Put down your phone and drive safe!

We encourage you to always drive safe and never use your phone while driving. Turn it off, place it in your glove compartment, give it to a passenger, or do whatever it takes for you to fight the FOMO.