Combating an Epidemic

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New distracted driving laws came into effect in Ontario on January 1, 2019.

According to statistics, death from collisions in the province caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000. In Ontario, one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, while a driver using a cell phone is four times more likely to crash. There were 7,435 crashes in Toronto in 2016 caused by distracted driving.

Legal definitions

The law clearly states: 78.1 (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.

Additionally, it’s important to note that police officers will not be allowed to seize a driver’s licence at the roadside— only under a judge’s approval and after the driver is found guilty will the licence be suspended.

According to the official Government of Ontario website, anything that causes a driver to be less focused on the road constitutes distracted driving. This includes activities such as:

  • Simply holding an electronic device in your hands (hand-held communication during driving is against the law)
  • Using a cellular phone to talk, text, check maps or switch playlists
  • Eating (there may not be a licence suspension, but you should be warned you could be fined or given six demerits depending on the food)
  • Reading books or documents
  • Typing a destination into the GPS

Beyond technology

It’s important to understand that distracted driving is not just limited to the use of electronics, as most people assume. Doing any of the aforementioned activities while behind the wheel makes you guilty of distracted driving, even if you’re on the highway or stopped at a red light. Only the following are permitted:

  • Hands-free Communications Devices
  • Mounted Devices

These rules were enforced as of August 31, 2017, but more restrictions may have been added since then (e.g., doing makeup).

O. Reg. 366/09, s.4 (4)

Persons employed as automobile technicians or mechanics may test drive a motor vehicle on a highway with a computer display screen that provides diagnostic information about the vehicle’s performance in the motor vehicle visible to the driver.

According to my sources, it’s up to the discretion of the Officer. If he/she feels that you are using the device and you are distracted by having it on your lap or on the seat you will most likely be charged and fined.

My suggestion is that if you are doing a road test and you need to have a diagnostic device, then you should have another technician in the passenger seat who can read the monitor while you are driving. For those of you who think this is an inconvenience by having two of your employees out on the road test, consider the following:

  • First offence: 3 days suspension and $1,000 fine
  • Second offence: 7 days suspension and $2,000 fine
  • Three or more offences: 30 days suspension, $3,000 fine and six demerit points

For the shop owner, having a technician employed with a licence suspension can prevent the business from renewing its Commercial Insurance policy or even get it cancelled.

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