Distracted Driving – What You Need To Know

With winter here it’s a crucial time of year to remind drivers that distracted driving is illegal and dangerous.

By Miriam Porter Wheels.ca

Jan 3, 2018 4 min. read

Article was updated 6 years ago

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With winter here it’s a crucial time of year to remind drivers that distracted driving is illegal and dangerous.

According to Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), distracted driving has become a national issue and all provinces and territories in Canada have hand held cell phone legislation except for Nunavut.

The fines vary in amount and can reach $1000 dollars or higher in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. In Ontario it is illegal to “operate hand-held communication and electronic entertainment devices while you’re driving” as well as view display screens that are not related to driving.

Here are seven additional things you need to know about distracted driving.

Examples of Hand Held Devices

As new technology is introduced this list is sure to get updated. But in the meantime Ontario lists examples of hand held devices to include cell phones, smart phones, laptops, DVD players, iPods, MP3 players, and a GPS.

This means you cannot program your GPS while driving, you can’t search for a movie for the kids to watch on the DVD player, and you most definitely can’t be texting, dialing, or scrolling through contacts on any hand held device.

Nope - Not even at a Red Light

Some drivers are misinformed and think they can text or dial when stopped at a red light. This is illegal and dangerous. The only exception to this is if you are calling the police, fire department, or emergency medical services. If you are not calling for emergency help do not pick up your phone unless you have pulled over, away from traffic, or legally parked.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation wants drivers to keep in mind that accidents don’t just occur when cars are in motion, it’s also the drivers that are stopped at red lights and using their phones which distracts them from the light cycle and advance turn signals.

Distracted Driving

High Fines for Breaking the Law

As previously mentioned, fines can reach as high as $1000 dollars, and up to $1200 dollars in Prince Edward Island. In British Columbia the first offence is $543, but your second offence (should you still not have learned your lesson) is $888.

In Ontario the fine for distracted driving is $400 and up to $1000 dollars if you receive a summons or fight your ticket in court. There will also be three demerit points directly applied to your driving record and if you are convicted of distracted driving there are escalating sanctions starting with a 30-day license suspension.

Hands Free Devices are still Distracting

Having common sense while driving is also important. Multitasking can be very dangerous while driving and looking at a screen even if you are not holding or touching it can have serious consequences.

Any distraction no matter how small it may appear at the time can be potentially dangerous when driving a car. Save your hands free devices for use outside the car as they are distracting you from paying attention to the road conditions, other vehicles around you, and traffic signs.

Distracted Driving

Eat Before you Leave or Once you Arrive

Eating while driving is also a distraction and can lead to accidents. Besides, you risk making yourself and your car a mess.

Consider stopping at a café, restaurant, or rest stop to enjoy a picnic when taking long road trips instead of eating in the car.

Mood also Affects your Driving

As Wheels pointed out in this article about road rage, it is important to stay calm while driving. If you are angry it’s ideal to wait before getting behind the wheel of a car.

Take some deep breaths, take a moment to meditate and take your mind to your happy place. It’s better to arrive a few minutes late to your destination than risk driving while angry, extremely stressed out, or under emotional duress.

Books, Newspapers, Magazines – also Distracting

Just because books, newspapers and magazines are not electronic does not make them safe to read while driving, stalled in traffic, or stopped at a red light. Even reading a paper map while driving takes your eyes away from the road in front of you and can have fatal consequences.

When you are behind the wheel you need to be alert and focused so you will see the unexpected child running after the ball on the road, the pedestrian walking their dog across the street, and the cyclist coming around the corner. If you are busy doing something else your concentration is not where it should be – on the road and the people and cars around you.

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