No more warnings, just straight fines on distracted driving, OPP say

Ontario Provincial Police are taking aim this week at the deadliest driver on the road: the distracted driver. Figures show inattentive driving was responsible for 83 deaths on OPP-patrolled roads last year, exceeding deaths due to speeding, alcohol or drug use, and lack of seat belts.

Inattentive driving was responsible for 83 deaths on OPP-patrolled roads in 2017

Since 2009, the year distracted driving laws took effect in Ontario, 692 people have been killed in collisions that involved an inattentive driver on OPP-patrolled roads. (CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police are taking aim this week at the deadliest driver on the road: the distracted driver.

Figures show inattentive driving was responsible for 83 deaths on OPP-patrolled roads last year, surpassing deaths due to speeding, alcohol or drug use and lack of seat belts.

"By now, the majority of drivers and passengers have witnessed, had a close call or been involved in a collision with a driver who was texting, talking on their cellphone or engaged in some other form of distraction", said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair.

Since 2009 — the year distracted driving laws took effect in Ontario — 692 people have been killed in collisions that involved an inattentive driver.

The annual crackdown on distracted driving was launched Monday and will continue through March 18.

OPP Sgt. David Rektor of the OPP's Western Region in the London area said some drivers still don't realize that dialing a call, scrolling through contacts or manually programming a GPS device are illegal while at the wheel.

"We want to get rid of this mentality that you can still do something else other than concentrate on the road in front of you, when the fact is that if you're doing that, you're four times more likely to be involved in a collision than a driver who is focused on the road."

Rektor said the OPP will deploy specially-designated vehicles during the seven-day blitz. In the past, it has used sprinter vans and other vehicles not normally associated with police surveillance.

"We do have a few techniques up our sleeve to make sure that drivers are driving fully attentive, and those that are driving thinking they're getting away with distracted driving will be caught."

And it's not just the use of cell phones that can leave you with a hefty fine.

"The craziest thing I've ever seen is somebody playing a trumpet, reading sheet music taped to their steering wheel," Rektor said.

No warnings, just fines

And don't expect to get off with a warning, if you're caught.

"The time for warnings is certainly gone. Warnings served a purpose at the initial stages when people were transitioning to this law, but this law has been in effect for a number of years now. There's no reason why somebody needs to be distracted," said Rektor.

Penalties for distracted driving include:

  • A fine of $400, plus a victim surcharge and court fee, for a total of $490 if settled out of court.
  • A fine of up $1,000 if you receive a summons or choose to fight your ticket.
  • Three demerit points applied to your driver's record.

In addition to the above fines, drivers who endanger others because of any distraction may also be charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act or dangerous driving under the criminal code.

Both charges carry heavy fines and other penalties.