Act First Safety

March 16, 2014

According to Sean Graham, Vice President of Kanetix a leading auto insurance company, distracted driving is the principal cause of fatalities on the road.  This exceeds DUI and speed-related accidents.  He adds that people may not be aware that while distracted driving fines are increasing in Ontario, drivers can experience additional charges.  For instance, if you are considered to be causing danger to yourself or others, careless driving charges could be laid. Similarly, failing to signal charges could also be laid if these types of offences occur due to distraction while driving.

In Ontario, fines are nearly doubling this week for distracted driving increasing from $155 to $280.  This increased fine is on par with some of the highest rates across the country which generally range from $100 to $280.

Distracted driving includes a range of activities including simple texting behind the wheel to the broader scope of distracted driving which can include eating behind the wheel, changing music on an ipod and using a phone.  Devices with display screens like a phone, computer, and tablet that is visible to the driver could end with charges being laid.  GPS devices are exempt, but must be used hands-free.  Essentially it includes anything that takes driver focus off the road.

Currently, a ticket for distracted driving in Ontario does not come with demerit points, although drivers facing additional charges like careless driving receive six demerit points against their record upon conviction.  Infractions stay on driver records for three years. 

As a result of the increase in fatalities and accidents, drivers charged with distracted driving will likely witness costs beyond the fines.  It is anticipated that drivers will experience an approximate $75 increase on their auto insurance policies.  Of course, the monetary costs do not rival the significance of human suffering, loss of life or disabling injury. 

Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon’s private member’s bill would make distracted driving worth three demerit points and raise fines to $500.  He may be on to something.  The climate for harsher penalties seems to be in the wind.  According to a recent Kanetix customer survey, 80% responded that distracted driving should be a criminal offence.

Seventy-eight deaths were attributed to distracted driving last year with over 300 since 2010.

Crash Odds:

·        Text messaging (or texting) on a cell phone – 23 times more likely

·        Talking on a cell phone – 4-5 times more likely

·        Reading – 3 times more likely

·        Applying makeup – 3 times more likely

With such behaviours increasing the odds of an accident, the need to reinforce that drivers need to focus on the task at hand, which is driving, has never been greater.   

Lauren McFarlane, BA, CHSC
President, Act First Safety, Toronto, ON

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