New Distracted Driving Law January 1 - Part of Cannabis Legislation

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Ontario’s Bill 174 otherwise known as the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act kicks in January 1, 2019. Note that means that it’ll be in effect for most people driving home New Year’s Eve. The legislation updates the regulations on impaired driving and distracted driving in Ontario and includes heftier penalties and more strict regulation.

Changes to the legislation represent an attempt to keep up with technology and social changes along with the question of cannabis use and impairment behind the wheel. This new law will strengthen the existing road safety laws and contains many new powers for the police. It allows police better powers to address unsafe driving behaviors, including careless and impaired driving.

Here is a sample of the changes:

  • With this legislation the police will no longer need ‘just cause’ to administer a road side drug or breathalyser tests. The police will be able to randomly pull you over to test for impairment if they so desire.
  • Drivers caught talking, dialing, emailing or texting on their phones or other handheld devices, or using entertainment devices will face fines of up to $1000 and a three-day licence suspension and 3 demerit points. You should note that if your licence is suspended at the road side, you’ll have your car towed and you will be responsible for any fees associated with impounding, taxi services and of course your insurance rate will climb.
  • Second conviction of distracted driving will carry a fine of up to $2,000, a seven-day licence suspension and six demerit points
  • Motorists who have been caught driving distracted more than two times will pay a fine of up to $3,000 and lose their license for 30 days.

This legislation carries the toughest penalties in Canada for repeat distracted driving convictions. It also allows police to conduct more thorough policing of impaired driving. Currently, RIDE stops which are not random roadside stops, are often well publicized on social media and can in some instances be easily avoided by impaired drivers, are the only way to do widespread impaired driving monitoring.

You can read the legislation here. Remember that refusing to provide a sample for roadside testing will result in the police taking you to the station and get a court order for a sample of your blood. If you are impaired, you will then face several charges. Refusing to provide a sample is a criminal offence which carries hefty penalties and the potential to impact the rest of your life with travel and job restrictions.